Inter Milan

Inter Milan's Best Signings of the Last 10 Years

Sam LoprestiFeatured ColumnistOctober 22, 2013

Inter Milan's Best Signings of the Last 10 Years

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    Inter's Esteban Cambiasso (acquired in 2004) goes for a loose ball in this season's league opener against Genoa.
    Inter's Esteban Cambiasso (acquired in 2004) goes for a loose ball in this season's league opener against Genoa.Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Inter Milan has a long and storied history, and it includes some memorable transfer deals. From the then-record acquisition of Luis Suarez Miramontes in 1961 that ushered in the period of "La Grande Inter" to the 1995 signing of the club's greatest player, Javier Zanetti, the team's market activity has always had a bearing on the team's success.

    Over the last 10 years, the Nerazzurri have experienced some of their greatest successes.  They won five consecutive titles at the end of the 2000s and capped it off with an historic treble in the 2009-'10 season.  In the course of those 10 seasons they have made a few transfer deals that have been significant helps to the club's fortunes.

    So what moves have been the best?  Let's take a look at 10 major moves that paid big dividends for Inter over the last decade.

Ricky Alvarez

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    Ricky Alvarez celebrates an equalizing penalty in last May's match against Napoli.
    Ricky Alvarez celebrates an equalizing penalty in last May's match against Napoli.Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

    Ricky Alvarez arrived at Inter in 2011 from Argentinian side Velez Sarsfield and is finally coming into his own this year.

    Alvarez has appeared in seven games this year for Inter, all starts.  He has scored twice and garnered three assists.

    An impressive dribbler and passer, Alvarez has been Walter Mazzari's pivot behind striker Rodrigo Palacio in the 3-5-1-1.  This advanced position has given full range to his talents, and WhoScored.com rates him as Inter's best player this season.  An injury kept him out of Inter's 3-3 draw against Torino at the weekend, but Inter may finally have that special player who can open teams up the way Wesley Sneijder did for Jose Mourinho's teams.

    At 25, Alvarez's best years lie ahead of him, but he could prove to be one of Inter's most important players in the next 10 years.

Samir Handanovic

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    Samir Handanovic tips a shot over in Inter's penultimate game of 2012-13 against Genoa.
    Samir Handanovic tips a shot over in Inter's penultimate game of 2012-13 against Genoa.Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    With Julio Cesar losing form and fighting injuries, Inter was looking for a new goalkeeper in last season's summer transfer window.  As it happened, Francesco Guidolin finally decided to make his custodian available in that year's annual Udinese fire sale.  Massimo Moratti pounced and claimed Samir Handanovic for €11 million, making the Slovenian the sixth-most-expensive goalkeeper in the history of the sport.

    Handanovic had been considered one of the best goalkeepers in the Serie A for several years, and he showed himself to be a valuable acquisition in an otherwise forgettable season.

    Andrea Stramaccioni's constantly changing tactics saw him waste an incredible start that saw the Nerazzurri lead the league after the first week and climb as high as second as late as December 15.  After that, though, the spiral began.

    It was Handanovic and his multitude of excellent saves that made sure Inter's season wasn't worse than their ninth-place finish.  ESPNFC recorded the Inter No. 1 at 115 saves made in the league and 41 more in the Europa League.

    So far this season he's posted three clean sheets in eight games and stopped 20 shots.

    How long Handanovic stays is going to be a question for some time.  Barcelona, in need of a replacement when Victor Valdes leaves the Camp Nou after the season, was reportedly interested in the 'keeper this summer, though that talk was quashed by the player's agent to Sky Sport 24 (via Goal.com).  Such a purchase would have made his price second only to Gianluigi Buffon's mega-money move from Parma to Juventus in 2001.

    That move was scuppered when Valdes announced he would honor the final year of his deal, and Barca may shift their focus to the younger Thibaut Courtois and force Chelsea to choose between the Belgian and incumbent 'keeper Petr Cech, according to the Daily Mail.

    One thing is for sure—Inter will be a better team as long as Handanovic is playing for it.

Samuel Eto'o

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    Samuel Eto'o advances the ball in a 2011 match against Lecce.
    Samuel Eto'o advances the ball in a 2011 match against Lecce.Tullio M. Puglia/Getty Images

    Samuel Eto'o's time with Inter was brief, but it was certainly prolific.

    The Cameroon international arrived from Barcelona in July of 2009 in exchange for striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and €46 million.  Ibrahimovic had been the focal point of the team's attack for five seasons, but Eto'o immediately picked up where the Swede left off.

    Overall in 2009-'10 Eto'o scored 16 times and notched seven assists.  His goals included a score against Chelsea in the Champions League round of 16 that sent the Italian side to the quarterfinals.

    Inter would eventually win that tournament, as well as the league title and the Coppa Italia, becoming the first Italian side to achieve a treble.  Coming on the back of Barcelona's treble the year before, Eto'o became the first player ever to win a treble in consecutive seasons.

    Eto'o played second fiddle to fellow transfer acquisition Diego Milito in his first season, but when Milito fell off the face of the earth in 2010-'11 Eto'o filled in the void and had the best season of his career.

    He scored 21 league goals and eight apiece in the Coppa Italia and Champions League.  His shining moment came in the Champions League round of 16.

    Inter had lost the first leg at home 1-0, but Eto'o erased that deficit after four minutes of play at the Allianz Arena.  Half an hour later Bayern was up 3-1 on aggregate behind goals from Mario Gomez and Thomas Mueller, but Eto'o responded again.  He slipped clinical assists to Wesley Sneijder in the 63rd minute and Goran Pandev in the 88th, giving Inter the tie on away goals.

    Eto'o went on to score a brace in the Coppa Italia final against Palermo to give the Nerazzurri their only silverware of the season, but a few months later Massimo Moratti made the baffling decision to sell the player to Anzhi Makhachkala with no ready replacement.

    Inter scored 11 fewer goals the next season and crashed to a sixth-placed finish.  Had Eto'o stayed at the San Siro, Inter may have been able to improve on some of the horrible form they've endured the last two seasons.

Julio Cesar

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    Julio Cesar denies Kevin-Prince Boateng in the derby della madonnina on May 6, 2012.
    Julio Cesar denies Kevin-Prince Boateng in the derby della madonnina on May 6, 2012.Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Acquired in 2005 from Brazilian club Flamengo, Brazilian international Julio Cesar took over from a club icon in Francesco Toldo, beating him out for the job as the 2005-'06 season progressed.

    Over the course of his Inter career he became known as one of the game's best.  By 2009 he was garnering interest from Manchester United as a potential replacement for the aging Edwin van der Sar, and former Inter keeper Gianluca Pagliuca was hailing him as the best in the world.

    Cesar was named Goalkeeper of the Year in 2009 and 2010 in Serie A—taking the title from Gigi Buffon, who had won it eight of the 10 years prior—and the UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the year after Inter's 2010 treble.

    Handanovic replaced him last season and he moved to Queens Park Rangers, where he played well despite the team's struggles and eventual relegation.

    Cesar was the right keeper at exactly the right time for Inter, and he locked down the team's goal through the most successful period since La Grande Inter in the 1960s.

Rodrigo Palacio

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    Rodrigo Palacio fires the ball in Inter's 7-0 thrashing of Sassuolo in September.
    Rodrigo Palacio fires the ball in Inter's 7-0 thrashing of Sassuolo in September.Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Inter picked up Rodrigo Palacio last summer after three years at Genoa.  His 19 scores in 2011-'12 piqued Massimo Moratti's interest, and it proved a fortuitous signing.

    With star target man Diego Milito gone for long stretches due to injury and Antonio Cassano struggling with both form and fitness, Palacio became Inter's best option to lead the line.

    The Argentinian responded by scoring 12 goals in the league and eight in the Europa League.  Coupled with a pair of tallies in the Coppa Italia, Palacio totaled 22 goals in all competitions, 12 more than the next player.

    With Milito dealing with more injuries, Palacio has again been asked to lead a line that includes young strikers Mauro Icardi and Ishak Belfodil.  Again he has responded, scoring five goals in eight games, including a brace on the weekend against Torino.

    Palacio is a great buy not only because he has bailed Inter out as a goalscorer but because he will serve as a stellar mentor to the club's tender strike force—particularly his countryman Icardi.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic fends off Rio Ferdinand in a 2009 Champions League clash between Inter and Manchester United.
    Zlatan Ibrahimovic fends off Rio Ferdinand in a 2009 Champions League clash between Inter and Manchester United.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic was looking to jump ship in 2006 when Juventus was stripped of two titles and relegated following the still-contentious judgement in the calciopoli match-fixing scandal.  Unlike other top performers like Alex Del Piero, Gigi Buffon and Pavel Nedved, who resolved to stay and see their club through a dark hour, Zlatan wanted out.

    The big Swede ended up arriving at Inter on a €24.8 million deal several days after fellow Juve wantaway Patrick Viera finished his own move to the San Siro.

    Ibrahimovic scored in his first game with Inter and finished as the team's top scorer as the Nerazzurri went on to win the title.  His goal totals increased each year, from 15 to 17 to 25 in his final season.  Overall he finished with 66 goals and 32 assists in 117 games with Inter over all competitions.

    He left the team in 2009 on a big-money move that saw Samuel Eto'o move in the opposite direction, but his legacy will always be a part of Inter history.  With him leading the line the club won its first title on the field in 17 years, followed by two more.  Combined with the title they were awarded for the 2005-'06 season they were the bulk of the five straight titles the team claimed in the wake of the scandal.

    Despite his stature on the field, Zlatan was never able to win outside of Italy.  He scored only six goals in Europe in his three seasons with Inter and the club never advanced beyond the round of 16.  Tellingly, the year he left Inter went on to win the Champions League as part of their historic 2010 treble.

    Still, the acquisition of Ibra solidified Inter's hold on the Serie A in the post-calciopoli years.

Walter Samuel

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    Walter Samuel challenges Juventus' Sebastian Giovinco in March.
    Walter Samuel challenges Juventus' Sebastian Giovinco in March.Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    After successful stints with Argentine powerhouses Newell's Old Boys and Boca Juniors, Walter Samuel found even more success in Europe, first with Roma, then Real Madrid and then with Inter, who bought him from the Spanish giants after a single season at the Bernabeu.

    Samuel contributed in a big way to the Inter teams that won five consecutive titles in the late 2000s, including the treble season of 2009-'10, when he played in 30 games in the league and 13 more in the Champions League.

    Powerful, pacy and uncompromising in the tackle, Samuel earned his Italian nickname "Il muro."  He played in 158 league games overall for Inter and scored 12 times in his eight seasons.  Injuries deprived him of a significant portion of some of those seasons and cost him a place on the Argentine squad at the 2006 World Cup.  His performances in '09-'10 earned him back his starting place in Diego Maradona's 2010 side.

    A key part of the defense, Samuel played a part in all of Inter's five consecutive league titles as well as three Coppa Italia crowns.  He was also on the field for all 90 minutes of the 2010 Champions League final.

Wesley Sneijder

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    Wesley Sneijder balltes Mark van Bommel for a loose ball in the 2010 Champions League final.
    Wesley Sneijder balltes Mark van Bommel for a loose ball in the 2010 Champions League final.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    Wesley Sneijder's tenure with Inter was brief and sometimes contentious, ending in the player's benching and sale to Galatasaray last year.  But his immense talent—and outstanding 2009-'10 season—is enough to include him on this list.

    Sneijder was simply superb during Inter's march to the treble.  He scored four times with eight assists in the Serie A, but where he really shone was in the Champions League.

    In 11 games in Continental competition, the Dutch master scored three times and had an absurd seven assists, including the helper for Diego Milito's opener in the final.  He finished fourth in Ballon d'Or voting that year, and he won UEFA's Club Midfielder of the Year award and was included on the UEFA team of the year.

    Sneijder kept up his play the next year, but in 2011-'12 he was goalless in five Champions League outings and only notched six assists all season.  The next year his bad form and a falling out over his contract saw him packing his bags for Turkey.

    Despite the acrimonious end, Sneijder proved to be the key missing piece for a team that had fallen in the round of 16 in the Champions League in the three years prior.  Without him, the Nerazzurri may never have gotten over the hump for their third European crown.

Diego Milito

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    Diego Milito celebrates his brace in the 2010 UEFA Champions League final against Bayern.
    Diego Milito celebrates his brace in the 2010 UEFA Champions League final against Bayern.Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

    Argentine striker Diego Milito cut his teeth in the European game at Genoa and made his name at Real Zaragoza in Spain before returning to the Griffone for the 2008-'09 season and finishing second to Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the scoring charts with 24 goals.

    As Inter bade farewell to Ibrahimovic after that season, they brought in Milito and his Brazilian teammate Thiago Motta in exchange for four players and cash.

    He got his Inter career of to a flying start on August 29, 2009, assisting on two goals and scoring from the penalty spot in a 4-0 thrashing of cross-town rivals AC Milan.

    By the end of the season, Milito practically won Inter the treble all by himself.  He scored the only goal in the team's Coppa Italia win against Roma, sealed the scudetto with the only goal against Parma in the last game of the league season and bagged goals in the 30th and 75th minutes of the Champions League final against Bayern Munich to seal the Champions League crown.

    In all competitions during the 2009-'10 season, Milito scored 30 goals and notched six assists in 52 games.  He finished second in the race for capocannoniere for the second straight year (this time to Antonio Di Natale) and raked in a bevy of individual awards.  He was named Club Forward of the Year and Club Footballer of the Year by UEFA and Foreign Footballer of the Year and Footballer of the Year at that season's Oscar del Calcio presentation.

    The next season was a massive step down.  Milito was plagued by injuries and scored just eight times in all competitions, garnering the satirical "bidone d'oro" award as the league's worst player.

    The 2011-'12 season was a quiet rebirth.  Milito scored 24 league goals and tended to get them in bunches.  He scored three hat tricks during the season, including Serie A's first four-goal game since 2002 and another impressive display in the derby della madonnina, leading Inter to a 4-3 win and eliminating its rival from contention in the scudetto race.

    Injuries have derailed Milito again the last two years, but the money and players paid for him was well-spent.  His sparkling '09-'10 season carried Inter to an historic achievement and helped to cement it as the dominant team of the first decade of the 21st century.

Esteban Cambiasso

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    Esteban Cambiasso serves as Inter's stand-in captain against Roma.
    Esteban Cambiasso serves as Inter's stand-in captain against Roma.Claudio Villa/Getty Images

    Over the last decade several players have landed at the San Siro after stints at Real Madrid.  Another such player is Esteban Cambiasso, one of the greatest players ever to put on a blue and black shirt.

    A holding midfielder who can also create, the Argentine arrived at Inter on a Bosman in 2004 and immediately found a starting spot in Inter's midfield.  He's kept that spot for 10 seasons, becoming vice-captain last season after the retirement of another club legend, Ivan Cordoba.

    Cambiasso has won everything there is to win, capturing 23 official titles and been part of some of Inter's most memorable moments.

    Take this volleyed goal in the second leg of the 2005-'06 Coppa Italia, a fourth-minute opener that carried Inter to a 4-2 aggregate victory.

    Also of note is his go-ahead goal in the first leg of the Champions League round of 16 against Chelsea in 2009-'10.  Coming mere minutes after Salomon Kalou had equalized the game, the goal sent Inter over their round of 16 hump to take the title and the treble.

    Called "one of the most influential midfielders in Italian football" by Goal.com in 2008, Cambiasso is certainly one of the best acquisitions in the team's history.

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