Gianluca Caprari arrival at Inter Milan will highlight club's focus on youth

Inter Milan’s new owners have set out their vision for the club.

What is so important about Inter Milan signing a young winger in Gianluca Caprari from Pescara for €5 million, only to send him back to Serie B for a season?

Beyond the 13 goals he netted last season and his evident talent, the 21-year-old’s impending arrival comes after the Nerazzurri saw their advances for the 22-year-old Domenico Berardi rebuffed, and at a time when they are reportedly very close to Croatian sensations Marko Pjaca (21) and Karlo Butic (17).

The timing of this flurry of activity is interesting, coming mere days after owners Suning had insisted on developing youth at the nomination of the club’s new board.

On some levels, Inter look to have made some headway on that front in recent years. Andrea Stramaccioni’s side won the NextGen Series back in 2012, while the director of the club’s academy recently said there are “9-10 promising players” in the ranks.

Inter have also acquired the likes of Mauro Icardi, Geoffrey Kondogbia (both 23) and Jeison Murillo and Marcelo Brozovic (24). Meanwhile, Pablo Osvaldo, Hernanes and Felipe — all around the 30 mark — have been shipped out.

Loaning Caprari may be evidence Inter are finally farming out players they actually intend to use one day, and not just academy talent they will eventually sell on for peanuts or swap for older players.

The case of Marco Benassi — who was sent to Torino to acquire glorified sub Danilo D’Ambrosio, only for the 21-year-old Benassi to morph into a Serie A starter and be included in Antonio Conte’s pre-Euro 2016 Italy squad — still makes many Inter fans shudder.

There still seems to be an intrinsic mistrust of the Made in Milan brand around the city. Academy prospects Assane Gnoukouri and Rey Manaj barely played 90 minutes in Serie A between them in 2015-16, despite impressing with both the senior team and in the youth ranks.

While Inter have already parted with six of their starting XI from that NextGen final, losers Ajax have gone on to regularly include four of them (Viktor Fischer, Davy Klaassen, Mitchell Dijks and Joel Veltman) in their first team. Inter’s total? None.

What is behind this? Constantly chopping and changing managers probably didn’t help, but impatience may be the main reason. With the money drying up after winning the Treble in 2010, the Nerazzurri seemed to prefer quick fixes, like 29-year-old Hernanes, hoping to do well enough to earn Champions League qualification. Even riddled with debt, Inter seemed to have kept the Massimo Moratti tradition of spending their way out of trouble — only this time they were buying average players like Alvaro Pereira for €10 million.

Roberto Mancini gesturing Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini will need to balance youth with experience in 2016-17.

The good news is that Inter will be forced to change. The club’s financial fair play restraints won’t allow them to go for marquee signings without selling first, at least not until next season. The Federation will now force Serie A sides to include four homegrown players in their league squads, too.

The bad news, however, is that Suning have been also trumpeting a big signing to reconnect the fan base to the team, with Yaya Toure among those to be linked with a move to Inter.

Some fans are also worried Ezequiel Garay, 29, has been mentioned as a possible signing too. Is this the same Garay who hasn’t played 30 league games in a season since 2007? The cynic in many of fans would shout “Typical Inter” and wouldn’t be wrong, either.

Coach Roberto Mancini’s record isn’t brilliant when it comes to youth. Beyond barely playing academy players in 2015-16, he’s reportedly asking for more “Serie A-ready” players. Two notorious targets — Antonio Candreva and Lucas Biglia — are 29 and 30 respectively, and would cost a combined €55-60m.

Mancini has said that Brozovic could become one of the best midfielders in the world, but his constant tinkering with the lineup resulted in the Croatian only starting 25 Serie A games last season. Remember, Inter never helped Mateo Kovacic or Philippe Coutinho find themselves or their best position at the San Siro. They’ve come to regret giving up the Brazilian especially, who left for Liverpool for a paltry €13m in 2013.

We can’t know for sure what Suning want — they could start spending once the Nerazzurri’s current FFP deal expires in 2017, or even not spend anything. It seems like announcing big signings and developing youth could strike a reasonable balance, as long as they don’t mortgage their future for the sake of winning now with ageing talents.

A freelance writer, commentator and broadcaster, Edo is co-editor of Calciomercato.com’s English website. Twitter: @EdoDalmonte

The original version of this story which was published by ESPN can be viewed here.

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