Inter recorded their ninth consecutive Serie A win on Saturday night as they ran out 1-0 winners in Bologna. No one in an Inter shirt stood out too much, as it was a very functional performance from Antonio Conte’s champions in waiting.
The most eye-catching player on the pitch at the Dall’Ara was Nicolo Barella. Because of the 105 appearances he racked up for Cagliari before his move to Inter, it’s easy to forget that the Sardinian is still only 24.
If Inter had made the most of their counterattacks against Bologna, they could have scored four or five and had a much more comfortable evening. Barella is partly to blame for those missed chances as his decision-making was actually quite poor in the final third. The same can be said for almost all his teammates too.
What he did so well though, was picking up the ball from a central defender and driving through the Bologna midfield. The majority of Inter’s attacks saw Barella as the key protagonist, progressing the ball up the pitch. On another day he would have picked up at least two assists, or perhaps a goal for himself.
The regularity with which he puts in these quality performances shows that he has to be playing in the latter stage of the Champions League, something he’s never done before. Inter were very unlucky to finish bottom of their group this season, but it didn’t seem like the end of the world because there was a Scudetto up for grabs.
Well, Round 29 felt like the title race truly ended with AC Milan and Juventus dropping points in winnable games. Next season, Inter have to fight competitively on more than one front. There’s no suggestion at all that Barella wants to leave Inter any time soon, but if they crash out of next year’s Champions league early again, he may start to wonder if a move to the Premier League or La Liga may suit him more.
He’s beginning to put up numbers that show he’s one of the best midfielders in the world, and almost any top side would be willing to pay a big fee for the Italy international. According to StatsBomb, he’s averaging just over eight progressive passes per match this season, which is more than Bruno Fernandes, Luka Modric, and Kevin De Bruyne. He also makes more passes into the penalty area than Dani Olmo, Fabian Ruiz, and Thomas Muller.
He’s one of the best in the world now, and is more than worthy of winning this Serie A title. Inter have to make sure that there’s a clear path to Champions League glory for him at their club, not at the likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester City or Real Madrid.