Why signing Ivan Perisic would be money well spent for Jose Mourinho and Manchester United
There were some emotional farewells on the final weekend of Serie A, as Francesco Totti’s departure from Roma dominated the headlines. The Giallorossi skipper ended his 24-year senior career by waving a tearful farewell to a packed Stadio Olimpico, and it will be strange to see the capital club without their iconic No.10 when the 2017/18 campaign gets under way.
In Florence, club captain Gonzalo Rodriguez played his final game for La Viola, while Atalanta’s Cristian Raimondi and Giulio Migliaccio both retired. At San Siro, Rodrigo Palacio wore the Inter shirt for the final time against Udinese, but it was impossible to ignore the fact that Ivan Perisic spent just as long saluting the Nerazzurri supporters after the final whistle.
It seems that the Croatian winger knows he too will be moving on, but while those previous names are clearly reaching the end of their careers, the 28-year-old is unquestionably at his peak. He has enjoyed arguably his best season to date, playing above the mediocrity that surrounded him at Inter and ignoring the seemingly endless carousel of coaches in the black-and-blue half of Milan.
Perisic has spent the last 12 months providing the type of cutting edge so sorely lacking at Old Trafford
Despite having only been with the club since August 2015, Perisic has seen four different men take charge of the side. None made any tangible impact, and – while it seems that Luciano Spalletti will be the next to try his luck in one of Italian football’s most difficult jobs – it's almost certain that the new boss will have to plan for life without Perisic.
It is somewhat ironic that one of Inter's best players, who has been linked with Manchester United in recent days, could go on to star for Jose Mourinho - the only manager who has been able to deliver genuine success to the Nerazzurri in recent times.
Perisic has spent the last 12 months providing the type of cutting edge so sorely lacking at Old Trafford, and a player of his talent could perhaps turn some of those uninspiring draws into three vital points next term.
Completing 51% of the take-ons he attempted, Perisic has a good grasp of when to try and beat his defender and when to give the ball to a team-mate
Inter used a 4-3-3 under Frank de Boer and a 4-2-3-1 system when Stefano Pioli replaced him, with both coaches deploying the former Borussia Dortmund man wide on the left. From there he contributed 11 goals and eight assists, his pace and direct approach causing problems for defences across the peninsula.
Completing 51% of the take-ons he attempted, Perisic has a good grasp of when to try and beat his defender and when to give the ball to a team-mate. He made intelligent passes and was rarely caught in possession, while his crossing was always a dangerous weapon, particularly when Mauro Icardi was in the box.
With Inter notoriously weak in the full-back positions, Mourinho would also approve of the defensive diligence Perisic displayed. Applying himself consistently and providing solid protection for those behind him, the Croatian averaged 1.6 tackles and 1.1 interceptions per 90 minutes, demonstrating he's robust enough to cope with the demands of the Premier League.
That has come as a direct result of his work off the pitch, something he began to improve shortly after moving from Dortmund to Wolfsburg. It was there that he began to train alongside veteran striker Ivica Olic; Perisic credits his compatriot with helping to turn his career around after he spent previous years failing to apply himself as he should have.
Bound for Manchester?
“I heard a lot about Olic’s commitment before, but only after I had seen him in action did I realise how much harder I had to work and change my habits in order to be even close to him,” Perisic said back in 2014. “He became my role model and broadened my horizons at a crucial stage of my career, helping me to choose the right path.”
Increasing his effort and his application both in the gym and on the training ground saw his previous inconsistency fade away, replaced with a gritty determination that remains today. It was vital this season, making Perisic one of the very few Inter players not affected by the general malaise that engulfed the club. Before he was fired, Pioli made his admiration of the winger's talent abundantly clear, telling reporters that he “expects a lot from Ivan, because he has huge potential and it’s right to demand the best.”
Unlike many others in the Inter squad, the Croatian routinely met those expectations and that's why so many clubs – including Liverpool, Chelsea and PSG – have been linked with him. United remain the clear favourites after monitoring him all season; Mourinho even flew to Zagreb during the last international break to watch Perisic play for Croatia and to meet his friend Predrag Mijatovic.
A €55m deal has been reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport and transfer expert Gianluca Di Marzio, a sum which represents good value for Inter, who paid €19m to sign him two years ago. However, given his recent form and United’s need for match-winners, it would be money well spent.