The retirement of Javier Zanetti was undoubtedly the end of an era at Inter, the Italian giants making a major shift away from the team which won the treble under Jose Mourinho in 2010 and into what they hope will be a bright new dawn. Captaining the side for an incredible fifteen years, the Argentinean full-back had seen it all, from heart-breaking defeats to the memorable night in Madrid that saw them claim Champions League glory.
With almost every senior player having moved on before him, the summer of 2014 would see the armband surprisingly passed to Andrea Ranocchia, who had been with the Nerazzurri just three seasons at the time. “He’s perfectly in tune with the spirit of Inter,” Zanetti – quickly named Vice President of the club – would say of his successor, but the Italian’s first season as skipper would be hugely disappointing for the team.
Coach Walter Mazzarri would be fired in November to pave the way for Roberto Mancini to return, but he also failed to arrest their slide down the table. Eventually finishing in eighth place, they would miss out on European football altogether, prompting heavy investment and a major shake-up of the squad ahead of the 2015/16 campaign.
While the likes of Geoffrey Kondogbia and Stevan Jovetic grabbed the headlines, Inter also brought in defensive reinforcements including central defenders Jeison Murillo and João Miranda. The South American duo established themselves as the first choice pairing as Inter reeled off five consecutive wins to begin the season, while Mancini has opted for Gary Medel or Juan Jesus as alternatives.
That has left Ranocchia on the outside looking in, playing just 72 minutes so far this term and looking on helplessly as Mauro Icardi took over as captain. It has resulted in much speculation about his future, particularly as he is believed to have refused a move to Southampton over the summer. Now Everton, Newcastle, Tottenham Hotspur and AS Roma are all believed to be seriously considering a January bid for the 27-year-old.
While it is easy to look back at the mistakes he has made since joining the club, numerous factors have contributed to his poor form, not least of which has been the constant coaching changes at Inter. Since joining the Nerazzurri in a €19 million deal back in January 2011, the former Genoa defender has played under no fewer than six different coaches, all utilising different systems and all without any real interest in shoring up the backline.
Rafael Benitez was fired just three days before Ranocchia arrived, and Leonardo would last just five months in the job before being replaced by Gian Piero Gasperini. His cavalier 3-4-3 formation never took hold and offered little protection for the defence before Claudio Ranieri and Andrea Stramaccioni reverted to a four-man setup.
Mazzarri would look to use his 3-4-1-2 framework despite not having the players to make it work, all of which combined to make Ranocchia appear a shell of the promising talent who had emerged at Bari. There, alongside current Juve stopper Leonardo Bonucci, he was undoubtedly the most highly touted of the two, thriving under then-coach Antonio Conte before the trio all moved on.
He has been reunited with the former Juve boss as he took charge of the Italian national team, and continues to rely on Ranocchia as a regular member of the squad. Whenever he has been called upon to represent the Azzurri, the player has shone once again, proving that in the right system his talent undeniably remains.
Standing 1.95m (6 ft 5 in) tall and able to cover ground quickly, he has all the physical tools to become a fine defender, showing none of the mental fragility and concentration issues that have blighted his time at Inter when Conte fields him for Italy. Ranocchia has always been comfortable on the ball, completing almost 50 passes per game in 2014/15 while also showing he would be able to cope with the physical nature of the Premier League.
According to statistics courtesy of Squawka.com, he averaged 2.2 tackles, 2.1 interceptions and 4.3 clearances per game last term, while also winning 67% of the headed duels he contested. He has been advised to leave the San Siro giants by none other than Marco Materazzi, a former team-mate and the man whose no.23 shirt he now wears.
“I had already told Andrea to go elsewhere over the summer, as the fans never really loved him and unfortunately he arrived at Inter during a tricky time,” the treble winner and former Everton defender told FCInterNews. “In my view, it would be best if he left.”
It seems, given the performances of those ahead of him, that Ranocchia may have little choice other than to do just that, and may well be on the move once the transfer window opens in January.
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