Their entry into the Champions League may have been last-minute – as Matias Vecino fired his side ahead versus Lazio in the 81st minute of a winner-takes-all match on the final day of the 2017/18 Serie A campaign – but Inter’s close-season preparations have been anything but.
“From Monday we will work to improve, but the season has been positive,” revealed Nerazzurri sporting director Piero Ausilio to reporters before the that final game showdown. “It [qualification] would change something. Without it we would have fewer options but the ambition of Inter and Suning won’t change. We want to get back up there and be competitive in as little time as possible.”
True to his word, in came Radja Nainggolan from AS Roma in order that the talented Belgian re-join former boss Luciano Spalletti, along with Lazio centre-back Stefan De Vrij, young Argentinian striker Lautaro Martinez as well as having secured left-back Kwadwo Asamoah from Juventus. While many clubs and fans were distracted by the World Cup, Inter had their sights firmly on assembling a squad fit for the rigours of Champions League competition.
Above all though, the capture of Sassuolo winger Matteo Politano had stood out as a truly excellent piece of business.
After having come through the Roma youth sector, Politano fired in eight goals in 28 appearances on loan at Perugia before making a permanent move to Pescara in 2013. Two seasons on Italy’s East coast made enough of an impression for Serie A side Sassuolo to swoop for the Rome-native, and his progress there has helped the 24-year-old to make the step up to San Siro.
“There was a lot of excitement when I first heard I was coming here, it was indescribable,” Politano revealed to Inter TV upon his arrival. “It was one of the most beautiful days of my life, whenever I came to Milan with Sassuolo it made you timid, San Siro has quite an effect on you. My objective was to continue on my path of growth and I’ve come to one of Europe’s biggest clubs. I’m happy.”
Indeed, the iconic stadium shared by both Milan and Inter must’ve had an effect on the winger last term as he fired in past both clubs for the Neroverdi on the pitch where he will play his home matches in 2017/18. Adding goals versus Juventus, Napoli and Fiorentina displayed a maturity that not only secured a high-profile transfer for Politano this summer, but will mean that all eyes both at home and abroad will be on him during his first season with Inter.
Of course, Politano scores against Inter with a great free-kick. pic.twitter.com/ix5ALzXcnb
— Isak Möller (@Isak_Moller) May 12, 2018
What can such admirers expect from the talented youngster? Here is a left-footed player that likes to cut inside, but shows enough versatility to be deployed on either flank or in a central role supporting the striker. Pace, trickery and sublime ball control is something that Politano has in his locker and – with 10 goals and four assists in 2017/18 – he certainly understands exactly how to make an impact in a match.
His shooting can be wayward, something that Inter will surely be looking to work on, but with Mauro Icardi up front, Politano certainly won’t be handed that same luxury as he was with Sassuolo. His unsuccessful touches have also steadily risen from 1.7 per game in his first season with the Neroverdi to 2.1 last term, according to Whoscored.com, yet this is a player who has already worked to improve.
His tally of key passes has increased from 1.4 last term to two per 90 minutes in 2017/18 along with 2.2 dribbles as opposed to two registered the previous season. Praised for his technique and pace by new Italian national team boss Roberto Mancini, Politano was handed his first senior cap in a friendly versus Saudi Arabia back in May, with many more appearances in those famous Azzurri still to come.
Now replacing those black and green stripes for black and blue, the talented young player will swap playing in front of the second-lowest Serie A home crowd of an average of 11,266 last season for the highest. Inter played in front of 57,529 fans on average in 2017/18, totalling over 1 million supporters who watched Luciano Spalletti’s men reach the Champions League places.
Matteo Politano was thrust into the spotlight with this summer’s move, and now it is up to him to show and prove that he can refine his very obvious natural talent in order to become a regular for Inter and Italy in the future. Scoring versus large opposition didn’t phase him at all last year and – should he be able to repeat those feats – he genuinely will become a man with the world at his feet.
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Also published on Medium.