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FEATURE | How ownership uncertainty will limit Inter’s January transfer activity

With the halfway stage of the season rapidly approaching and games coming thick and fast, the turn of year has welcomed in the opening of the transfer window. A month in which teams can see their fortunes completely change, although not necessary for the better. Nerazzurri fans can look back to previous windows of busted flops who were signed with great anticipation and excitement: the likes of Hernanes, Lukas Podolski and Xherdan Shaqiri are just a few names that spring to mind.

However, rumours swirling from the Italian Peninsula suggest that Inter’s mercato invernale might well be over before it’s even begun. Transfer inactivity could well be a blessing in disguise as Antonio Conte, may be forced to push and use his squad in a different way in order to continue their push towards the greatly desired first scudetto since 2010. 

Most of the world is beginning to come to terms with the economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic that has devastated large parts of the world over the past 12 months. Football is no exception, with the pandemic leaving many teams struggling to make ends meet financially. Teams have been forced to change approach, potentially seeing a change to more loans and trades in order to make the most of plusvalenza to lessen financial blows. Plusvalenza, or capital gains, is the amount a selling club earns above the remaining amortised value (a player’s transfer fee divided by the length of the contract) for a player to have a positive impact on the club’s bottom line. 

Moreover, recent changes made by the Chinese government, which is pushing for policies to be aimed at the ever-increasing development of internal markets rather than external markets, have potential ramifications for Inter. The governmental change has forced the Suning Group’s hand, making them very hesitant to approve any transfer activity this coming month.

Arguably the greatest sign of financial strain is proved by the rumours that the private equity fund BC Partners are interested in purchasing a stake in the club, although it remains to be seen whether this would be a majority stake or just a minority investment. This notion was vehemently denied by Steven Zhang and the Chinese conglomerate.  

Nevertheless, in the build-up to Inter’s Coppa Italia tie against Fiorentina, the club’s CEO Beppe Marotta confirmed that Suning were considering selling a stake in the club. “The owners are considering the opportunities in the interest of Inter and in respect of the history of the club.” Despite uncertainty surrounding the ownership of the club, not much will change within the club and focus should not be drawn away from their title challenge. 

As any incoming signings now seem unlikely, unless any players leave the club just like Radja Nainggolan, Conte may be forced into a couple of tweaks in order to exert the maximum from his squad. One particular example could be the redemption of Christian Eriksen. The Dane has been strongly linked with a move away from Milan, but with finances tight across Europe, a move seems unlikely. Against Fiorentina Eriksen, was fielded at the base of the midfield as the deep lying playmaker, a role in which he showed some encouraging signs as he was able to use his excellent range of passing to dictate the pace of the game. A consistent run in the team to regain match sharpness and confidence could help Conte rediscover the Eriksen we saw during his time at Tottenham. 

Furthermore, a shift away from a 3-5-2 formation to a more offensive 3-4-1-2 would help ease the burden on the front two. Using Eriksen or Alexis Sánchez in this role adds a new element of creativity to the team and perhaps more importantly relieves the pressure on Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martínez. As striker options are very thin in this current squad, it is essential that the LuLa tandem are given all the help they can get and with a functional offensive threat behind them, Conte could look to rest them every now and again to keep them refreshed and minimise the risk of injury. 

Whatever happens in the coming months, it cannot be argued that the Suning Group has done a great job since taking over from Erick Thohir in 2016. The Chinese e-commerce giants managed to overcome harsh Financial Fair Play restrictions, returned to the Champions League following a six-year absence and once again created a squad capable of fighting for the Scudetto. It would be a shame to see Suning leave as they have always conducted and presented themselves to the highest standard during their reign, leaving the interisti nothing but grateful and thankful. One thing that is for sure is that whatever decision is made, you can guarantee it will be for the best interests of the Nerazzurri.

Dom Lombino

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