Should Andrea Ranocchia move on from Inter Milan?
Inter's aggressive and pragmatic transfer campaign has slowed down in recent weeks. President Erick Thohir has spoken about how the squad must have 25 strong players for the start of the season and at the moment, they are over that number. With Inter's squad still in need of trimming down the usual suspects are linked with moved away.
According to the Corriere Dello Sport, full-back Yuto Nagatomo is being touted to clubs in the Bundesliga and in the Premier League as he does not want to go to another Italian club. Midfielder Rene Krhin has rejected a move to Olympiakos as he wants to complete a move to Granada. Another midfielder, Ezequiel Schelotto, is expected to re-join Inter's training camp after spending last season on loan at Chievo but is also thought to be on his way out.
One of the players who isn't usually linked to an exit is Andrea Ranocchia but with interest now being reported by Tuttomercatoweb, is it time for the Nerazzurri to part company with their captain or would that be a mistake?
The outlet has linked the defender with a move to the Premier League, with West Ham United and Crystal Palace allegedly looking at him as a possibility. For most clubs, it would seem absurd to even consider letting a team captain depart but for supporters of the club, it will be a topic of great debate. He is a player who certainly divides opinion and while he has obvious ability there are huge questions over his capabilities.
For many who frequent the Giuseppe Meazza, their captain is infuriating as often has been guilty of mistakes that have cost their club points. This is arguably not as noticeable for those who do not watch him week in week out, as on the surface he has everything that the modern defender should have. At 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, he has both height and strength and is only 27. He has ability both in the air and on the ground. He is not slow either and while he may not win a 100 meter sprint against teammate Jonathan Biabiany, he can handle a lot of the front men in Serie A.
Ranocchia is strong statistically as well with his pass completion rate at 85.4 percent. That comes from 49 passes per game on average, of which only 2.4 a game are long balls. His blocks, aerial duels won, interceptions and tackles all rate well in comparison to the division's top 15 centre-backs, so what is the problem?
Decision making is key with anyone playing in the back line of a team and it is a major weakness in Ranocchia's game. More than once this season, the 27-year-old has been panicked into giving the ball away or misjudging a situation that has resulted in his team dropping points in a game. One notable example from this year was his error against Napoli in the Coppa Italia, which typified his season.
As Gonzalo Higuaín was running through, he failed to react to a throw in and fell over, allowing the Argentine space to run through and score in the third minute of stoppage time in a 1-0 defeat. Inter crashed out of the Coppa in the quarterfinals and their captain shouldered the blame, which resulted in manager Roberto Mancini coming out in his defence. Despite telling the fans that his team "win and lose together," it was becoming evident that these mistakes were becoming common place.
Against Parma in April and Wolfsburg in the Europa League, he was particularly poor and Mancini finally came out and criticised the player who was thought to be one of his favourites. After Inter's game against Genoa on May 23, Ranocchia had given away a penalty and had another dire display, the coach claimed he had an unlucky season and was struggling to play high up the pitch. He said that he needed to improve over the preseason and limit his errors.
That Mancini had to both defend and criticize his captain to the media cannot be a good sign. With a contract until 2019, it appeared as if he was going to be at Inter for the foreseeable future. He still may well be but the arrivals of Joao Miranda and Jeison Murillo, perhaps cast doubt. Also, don't forget that Nemanja Vidic is still at Inter and Juan Jesus and Marco Andreolli are both very capable options.
If Ranocchia packs his bags and leaves San Siro this summer, it will be a disappointing end for all involved. His comedy of errors will not be missed, but the frustration that a player with his skillset could not become integral to the team will be a regret. His biggest enemy is his own mind as he does not trust himself and that's not the right mind set for a top centre-back and certainly not for a captain.
Richard Hall is an Italian football writer contributing to ESPN, The Guardian, Daily Mail, IBWM and Football Italia. Follow him on Twitter @Gentleman_Ultra.