If the two teams’ summer transfer activity were placed head-to-head, like a boxing match, it would be decided on points. Both clubs have landed what resembled knockout punches, before their rivals struck back.
Indeed, it will be decided by points come May – league points. Juve have reloaded, with their sights on an eighth consecutive title (and fifth straight double). Inter are desperate to win their first scudetto since 2010, the year of Jose Mourinho’s historical treble.
Inter have been on the right path since Luciano Spalletti took over last summer. In 2018/19 the Nerazzurri return to the Champions League after a six year absence, and have recruited handsomely over the last two months.
Lazio’s classy centre-back Stefan De Vrij joined for free from Lazio (the side Inter squeezed out of fourth place with a dramatic win in Rome on the last night of the season). The composed Dutchman could form a fantastic partnership with Slovakian Milan Skriniar, who was one of the revelations of Serie A last season.
Inter can even play three at the back if they give old stager Miranda a starting spot. The Brazilian showed at the World Cup that he is still a fine, crafty defender, and younger legs around him could extend his career.
Should Spalletti switch from two to three central defenders, he has the ideal man for the left-flank. Free-agent Kwando Asamoah signed after six years of sterling service with Juventus. The 29-year-old Ghanaian has plenty of experience and offers an irrepressible presence on the flank.
Unlike Asamoah, fellow newcomers Matteo Politano are preparing for their maiden seasons with a big club. Dynamic, hard-working right-winger Politano, 25, arrived from Sassuolo, and Argentine Lautaro Martinez flew in from Racing Club in his homeland, and scored a spectacular flying volley in Saturday’s friendly against Atletico Madrid.
Meaningless match or not, his strike and performance thrilled Inter fans. Club captain Mauro Icardi has taken his 20-year-old compatriot under his wing.
Icardi should be as fresh as a daisy after his controversial omission from Argentina’s World Cup squad. Radja Nainggolan was also a surprise absentee in Russia, but still created headlines in Italy during the competition when he finally left Roma for the San Siro in early July. Inter have been long-term admirers.
Spalletti coaxed the best from the lively Belgian when the pair were together in the capital, and Nerazzurri supporters are thrilled at the duo’s reunion ‘up north’.
If the player nicknamed ‘Ninja’ can avoid injuries and rediscover his form of 2016/2017, his £34m fee will seem very modest, particularly as he can operate as a midfield enforcer or in the No10 role.
One man who did play at the World Cup -and to blistering effect- is Sime Vrsaljko. As soon as he returned from his stellar display in Russia negotiations with Atletico Madrid progressed swiftly and his loan was agreed. Inter fans began to feel spoiled.
The tireless defender joined on August 1st and the new rearguard composed of Vrsaljo, Skriniar, De Vrij and Assamoah has sent expectation for the new season sky high. The defence looks formidable.
Add to the equation Nainggolan and Lautaro further ahead, plus quicksilver forward Keita Balde who is finalising a move to the San Siro on Monday. The black and blue future looks bright.
The only thing missing is a first class ‘regista’ (playmaker), and Inter have supposedly got their eyes on the best in the business. Luka Modric has been heavily linked with the Nerazzurri, reports claim he wants to wear the famous stripes. Boss Spalletti has dampened the fervour, saying the move is the ‘fans dreaming.’.