Is Catania’s Francesco Lodi the answer for Inter?
Now at 28-years-old, Francesco Lodi is at the peak of his career. It has been an unexplicably inexorable rise for a player who had only ever made 18 Serie A appearances prior to a couple of seasons ago.
He has quickly established himself as a fine regista at Catania, bursting onto the Sicilian scene after an excellent season in Serie B with Frosinone, in which he scored seven times in 23 appearances.
Three seasons, 72 appearances and 16 goals later, and one of Italy’s biggest sides has – reportedly, at least – come calling. Andrea Stramaccioni wants Lodi for his Inter midfield, and it isn’t too difficult to work out why.
The Nerazzurri side is seriously lacking in a player like Lodi; resulting in a midfield which is fairly workmanlike and occasionally lacking in creativity. Esteban Cambiasso and Walter Gargano are both capable holding or box-to-box players with reasonable long-range passing, though to describe either player as a deep-lying playmaker would be wide of the mark.
Energetic Colombian Fredy Guarin has impressed creatively, often looking for the key pass himself. But, his runs and positioning suggest he is more comfortable playing in an advanced position with freedom to break into the box, rather than sitting as the deepest of a midfield trio.
This has likely been a contributing factor in Stramaccioni’s adoption of a counter-attacking style, with Inter averaging a smaller amount of possession than any of the other ‘big’ clubs (including Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Roma, Napoli and Lazio). They have come to rely heavily on breaking with pace through Antonio Cassano in particular, though to a lesser extent his teammate Rodrigo Palacio.
However, this way of playing has sometimes seen Inter struggle to break down sides more defensively stubborn – recently in their 1-1 draw against a rigid and disciplined Genoa side, and then their 3-0 defeat to Udinese last time out, with Inter never really threatening – even when they had 11 players on the field.
A swoop for Lodi wouldn’t necessarily mean an automatic change in style, as his distribution from deep isn’t incompatible with a counter-attacking strategy. Nevertheless, having him as part of the midfield would reduce the playmaking reliance on the wide attackers, possibly allowing them to stay higher up the pitch and apply more pressure on the opposition in the offensive third.
But, any capture of Lodi isn’t necessarily a given. Milan have also registered their interest, while Catania are unsurprisingly reluctant to let their star midfielder go cheap.
A move would, however, be deserved for a player who has really excelled over the last couple of seasons. His long-range passing combines with deadly set-pieces to make him a force to be reckoned with. An international cap is yet to arrive for the Neapolitan, though that hasn’t stopped him dreaming that one day he will.
“My dream is to play football wearing the shirt of my country,” Lodi says. The shirt of one of Italy’s largest clubs – whichever it may be – would go some way to turning this dream into a reality.