Alexis Sanchez has undergone a successful surgery in Barcelona after being diagnosed with a dislocated ankle and tendon damage. The Inter forward, on loan from Manchester United will reportedly miss at least three months of football. As it stands, the estimated current recovery time for the Chilean is set at January at best.
This piece of news is a blow for the club and the player who was looking like he had found his place. However, this leaves the door open for 17-year-old Sebastiano Esposito to come into the first team foray, as was shown versus Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday evening.
Conte is now expected to focus on Esposito and will work on the assumption that the teenager can fill the void left behind by the former Manchester United Forward.
Due to Alexis Sanchez’s injury, Inter are now down to just three established players capable of playing at striker position and with Inter facing a packed fixture schedule between now and the January transfer window, it would be logical that Conte simply cannot rely on having just three strikers/wide players available to him. Step in Esposito!
You do not become the youngest debutant in Inter’s illustrious European history by chance.
So, when Sebastiano Esposito stepped off the Nerazzurri bench at the age of 16 years and 255 days to try to salvage his side’s Europa League hopes against Eintracht Frankfurt, fans all over Italy sat up and took notice.
A title winner with Inter’s Under-16s, last season he split his time between the Under-17 side, for whom he scored 16 goals in 14 appearances, and the Under-19s team.
Esposito is a versatile attacker, who prefers to play up front, but can operate on either side of the wing. He can also play as a support striker in a front two if required. With that in mind, he will easily be a like for like replacement for Alexis Sanchez in terms of position.
In terms of his attributes, the teenager is a prodigious forward. One who is lethal in front of goal, whether it be finishing from his head or foot.
He also has bags of trickery with the ball at his feet to go past defenders and link up with other attackers around the opposition box.
Inter are a club who have been burned before in the last 12 months when it comes to letting young talent leave.
Their desperation to land Radja Nainggolan in the summer of 2018 saw them allow Roma to take Nicolo Zaniolo to Stadio Olimpico as part of the deal.
Just over six months later, Zaniolo was scoring match-winning braces in the Champions League knockout stages and earning rave reviews every time he stepped onto the pitch. It is safe to say a lesson has been learned at Inter. Conte would be well aware of this and would do well to keep hold of yet another talented youngster in Esposito.
In a move to further assure him of game time, reports in Italy claimed Conte and the board were involved in discussions with Espositio and asked him to not go to the under-17 World Cup with Italy.
This was on the basis that he will be involved with the first team and will, in all likelihood, see some action whilst Chilean international Sanchez is out on the sidelines recovering. Truly, the report seems to be concrete and as expected Esposito was actually left out of the official Italy squad for the U-17 World Cup.
The 17-year-old is widely regarded as one of the best prospects to come through the ranks at Inter for some time and the Nerazzurri have high hopes for him. Despite his young age, he might be the heir-apparent for the striker role when he fully comes of age. All he needs now is regular game time and he might just go ahead to become the next star of Italian football in the coming decade.