5 Under-the-Radar Transfer Targets for Inter Milan
After a 2012-13 season they'd rather forget, Inter Milan have reached the end of their first season under the ownership of Erick Thohir in much better shape.
The Nerazzurri sit in fifth place—four places higher than their finish a year ago—and look set to keep hold of their place in next year's Europa League.
Of course, Thohir is not content. Last week, he stated in an interview with Indonesian outlet Bola, via Football Italia, that he intends to "look to the Champions League places as early as next year." The owner previously stated a goal of reaching the final in 2016, when the San Siro is supposed to host the final.
In order to fulfill either of those goals, Thohir must make serious changes to his squad. With teams such as Juventus, Roma, Napoli and Fiorentina all making excellent transfer moves over the last few years, Inter must improve their own playing staff in order to keep pace with the sides that are emerging as Italy's elite.
Everyone wants to see big moves, but there are other, smaller moves Inter could make to strengthen the squad and give it important experience and depth.
What could Thohir do to improve the squad? Let's take a look at five potential targets.
John Obi Mikel
Jose Mourinho brought John Obi Mikel to Chelsea in his first stint at Stamford Bridge, but the Nigerian international has fallen out of favor since the Special One's return.
He has started only two Premier League games all season and hasn't started a game since the team's FA Cup loss to Manchester City in February.
Mikel is only 26 years old, but he has fallen hopelessly behind the likes of Nemanja Matic in Chelsea's pecking order and is likely to be offloaded this summer.
The London Evening Standard reported earlier this month that Erick Thohir himself was at Chelsea's Champions League match to discuss terms for the midfielder's transfer.
The Nerazzurri are a team desperate for midfield reinforcements. Club legend Esteban Cambiasso is finally starting to show his age. Ricky Alvarez can be brilliant but is maddeningly inconsistent. Zdravko Kuzmanovic is proving to be a dismal failure.
Obi—who has 57 caps for his country and remains a regular in the Nigerian setup despite his lack of playing time—could inject some much-needed quality and youth into Inter's midfield.
David Villa hasn't been involved in Spain's national team setup since the Confederations Cup. The injury he suffered at the Club World Cup semifinal two years ago was a terrible blow to his career, and he's still trying to recover.
Villa has scored 13 times this year for Atletico Madrid and may become the primary striking option there if Diego Costa is sold this summer. There are, however, reports from Sports Mediaset, via Football Italia, that Villa may be on his way to the San Siro.
The report states that Villa may move to Inter as part of a swap-and-money move for Mauro Icardi.
The young Argentine was purchased from Sampdoria only this past summer and has scored five times in the last six games, but Walter Mazzarri has soured on him. Much of it has to do with immaturity. His public feud with former Sampdoria teammate Maxi Lopez is turning into a massive distraction, and Icardi has only exacerbated the situation by continuing to taunt Lopez on social media.
It may be in Inter's best interests to cut bait on a player who can be so detrimental to the team. Villa has experience at the highest levels of the game, both for club and country. He could be of great use to the team—especially in Europe, where he has taken a back seat to Costa and Raul Garcia. The deal would have the double effect of removing a huge PR disaster from the squad.
Real Madrid product Alvaro Morata is trapped behind endless amounts of attacking talent at the Bernabeu.
That's a real shame, because he's incredible when he's on the field. He's scored six goals in La Liga and one in the Champions League despite the fact that 20 of his 22 combined appearances have come off the bench.
When he gets the chance to play, the 21-year-old is prolific. He scored 45 times in 83 games for Real Madrid B and has 13 in 12 outings with Spain's U21 side. This past summer, he won the Golden Boot at the U21 European Championships and was named to the team of the tournament.
Morata's talent is obvious, but unless the attitudes at Madrid change, he's not going to see starter's minutes in the near future. He needs a move.
The Gazzetta dello Sport, via Football Italia, reports that Erick Thohir has eyes on him and that Inter might have an edge over Juventus, as they are less resistant to including a buyback clause in the agreement.
Especially with Icardi becoming a problem, an attacker of Morata's obvious talent would be a key piece for Inter going forward.
Touted as one of Real Madrid's big signings this summer, young Brazilian Casemiro has seen the field only 14 times this season—and has started only once.
It's not what the 22-year-old was expecting when he arrived at the Bernabeu, and given the stacked nature of Madrid's midfield, he could find more playing time elsewhere.
Inter would be a practical destination. Lee has another Brazilian client, Hernanes, at the San Siro right now. Hernanes would help ease the youngster's adjustment to a move and mentor the player on the field.
Given the desperate need for youth in the Inter midfield, Casemiro would be an excellent signing.
Javi Garcia is another midfielder who could find more playing time at Inter. The Spaniard has seen only nine league starts at Manchester City this season. Of his 28 appearances this season, only 12 have come from the opening whistle.
Sky Sport Italia, via Football Italia, reported at the beginning of the month that Garcia could be coaxed away from Eastlands, and he's a good fit for the tactical system Walter Mazzarri runs at Inter.
For a team in need of midfield reinforcements, Garcia would be a good option who fits in the system and, given how crowded Man City's squad is, won't break the bank.