Milan’s two clubs met for the second time this season in mid-April, both still harbouring hopes of earning a Europa League berth that would at least rescue one positive from a campaign of total mediocrity.
After some tumultuous years, Inter have turned once again to Roberto Mancini, backing the former Manchester City boss in the transfer market in hopes of recapturing the glory of his first stint in charge of the Nerazzurri.
Despite a woeful 2014-15, they believe they have started out on the path to recovery, but another summer of upheaval looms for their cross-town rivals. Milan too seem set to turn to their past, Vice-President Adriano Galliani heading to Madrid this week in hope of bringing Carlo Ancelotti back to San Siro, while speculation over the prospect of Silvio Berlusconi’s search for foreign investment rumbles on.
In that derby clash, Jérémy Ménez perhaps encapsulated what the Rossoneri have become, sleepwalking through 90 minutes and managing to have barely any impact upon or interest in the match.
The French forward mustered 41 touches, failing to get a single shot on target, turning the ball over on no fewer than six occasions and being caught offside twice, acting throughout as if the game going on around him was somehow an inconvenience.
While watching a player fail to perform in such an important and prestigious fixture can be hugely frustrating, it is made worse by knowing Ménez is capable of so much more. Indeed – just as he has countless times throughout his career – the 28-year-old had shown his true ability just two weeks earlier, turning in an incredible display away to Palermo as he put the Sicilian side to the sword.
Scoring once and creating countless other chances for his team-mates as he led them to a 2-1 victory, he actively sought out the ball, tearing into the Rosanero at every opportunity. Taking on defenders with supreme confidence, he worked hard when not in possession too, tracking back to make five tackles and four interceptions. At the full-time whistle there was little doubt he had been the difference between the sides, almost single-handedly winning the game for the beleaguered Pippo Inzaghi.
There are few players in world football capable of being at once brilliant and infuriating to the level that Ménez so often is, managing to be invisible and yet decisive in a single game.
Perhaps this season’s first derby clash is a closer representation of his usual contribution; a 1-1 draw in which his sole moment of impact was to open the scoring with a deftly guided side-foot volley past the diving Samir Handanović.
“These things get said in the media, or by former players, Jérémy is used to it, he knows how it goes. We must accept criticism, because it’s part of the game, but I think every Coach would like to have a 16 goal ‘problem!’” – Kevin Ménez, brother and agent.
Regardless of whether or not they convince Ancelotti to return, Milan are clearly going to hit the reset button yet again, and with no European football for the second consecutive season, Ménez could be one of those to move on. Having netted a team high 16 goals – also adding four assists – he would be a huge loss for the Rossoneri, and there are widespread reports of interest from Liverpool.
Deployed in the middle of a front three this season, he would suit the style of play seen at Anfield as, despite having previously been a winger, he has blossomed as a genuine goalscorer this season.
“Enough of this story that Ménez is a false nine,” Galliani protested on Sky Italia earlier this year. “He’s a striker and that’s it!” Indeed, he has rarely dropped short in search of the ball, instead leading the line and causing problems for central defenders across the peninsula.
Having refused a move to Manchester United when he was 17, he has yet to fully deliver on the potential that Sir Alex Ferguson once recognised in him.
He has all the attributes to shine in the Premier League should the latest rumours come to fruition, but Liverpool should be aware of both sides of the former Paris Saint-Germain star’s game.
Capable of being the very best player on the pitch or a complete non-factor, Jérémy Ménez is at once a brilliant footballer and a frustratingly inconsistent one.
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