Inter Milan must learn from falls of Andrea Ranocchia and Juan Jesus
Once thought to be a defensive partnership for the future at Inter Milan, Andrea Ranocchia and Juan Jesus are now both on the verge of leaving the Nerazzurri.
Inter Milan returned to training this week in Riscone di Brunico, and amid the plush surroundings of the Alpine resort and the warm embrace of their gleeful fanbase, the players looked positive about the upcoming season, with striker Mauro Icardi promising “great things” and a return to the Champions League.
However, at the presentation of the club’s new kit, not all was harmonious. Midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia received warm cheers, but former captain Andrea Ranocchia was actually booed by fans. Why such contrasting responses to two players who have both flattered to deceive?
Ranocchia’s fall from grace is a fascinating story, one that saw him be touted as the next great defender before being unceremoniously loaned to Sampdoria last season. He is reportedly on the transfer list alongside fellow disappointment Juan Jesus, who is said to be very close to Roma.
What is remarkable isn’t that Inter want to be rid of both defenders, but how two such promising talents failed so epically at the San Siro. At one stage, Ranocchia became a regular figure of ridicule, with his biggest blunders abounding on the web.
Ranocchia and Jesus are, simply put, a painful reminder of what happens when prospects aren’t given any continuity, or even encouragement to succeed.
When Inter acquired the Assisi-born Italian back in 2011, many saw him, not Bari teammate Leonardo Bonucci, as the future of Italian defending. The Brazilian Jesus arrived the following year with the reputation of an all-action, tough-tackling mainstay.
They both began life pretty well with the Nerazzurri, or at least flashed enough talent to prove that they could stand up and be counted. A particular performance against Torino in 2012 saw the two complement each other perfectly: Ranocchia the tall header of the ball, Jesus the snappy tackler and pacy runner.
By the time manager Roberto Mancini returned in 2014, however, he’d seen enough of the both of them to lobby for the signing of both Joao Miranda and Jeison Murillo. The Italian defender was still captain at the time, but found himself unceremoniously relegated to the bench.
Ranocchia had degenerated to the point that his confidence was completely shot, his man-marking and positioning non-existent. Whether it was unwittingly assisting a Genoa goal or falling over to allow Gonzalo Higuain to net a last-minute Coppa Italia winner, Ranocchia was a shadow of his former self.
Jesus, for his part, often had Miranda shaking his head at his lack of positioning last season, and put on a couple of horrible January displays, which neatly coincided with Inter’s fade from the Scudetto race.
In truth, the failure to develop these two players into reasonable, possibly good Serie A defenders has more to do with Inter than the players’ own shortcomings. Never uttering a bad word when he was at the San Siro, Ranocchia suddenly blew up when he moved to Sampdoria, claiming that he’d be judged even when he was playing well.
In retrospect, it’s frankly shocking that Inter didn’t do more to shield both Ranocchia and Jesus and provide them with an experienced presence in defence — or at least one who could still remain upright. Ranocchia’s second season (2012-13) at Inter saw him rarely miss a game, while veteran Walter Samuel only played 15 times. Jesus made 29 appearances in the middle.
To compound things, Ranocchia was even handed the captain’s armband in 2014 (and Marco Materazzi’s No. 23 jersey), as if thrusting more responsibility on an inconsistent 25-year-old is in any way a good idea.
Constant managerial changes didn’t help, either, with the six coaches who succeeded Jose Mourinho in 2010 veering between a three-man and a four-man defence, which prevented Jesus or Ranocchia from learning, or having the time to adapt well to a specific system.
It is telling that both players are seen — at least by some gaffers — to be talents who can still be moulded into sure things: Roma boss Luciano Spalletti has been after the Brazilian for a while, while Ranocchia was pursued by the defensive-minded Sinisa Mihajlovic when he was coaching Milan. Ranocchia is also liked by former Italy coach Antonio Conte, who called up and started Ranocchia even when the going was tough at Inter.
The good news for Inter is that both players are arguably surplus to requirements. Ranocchia looked shocking when he played against Inter for Sampdoria back in February, while Jesus doesn’t quite guarantee enough stability in the middle, or enough attacking intent as a full-back.
The bad news is that Inter have chopped and changed a lot of late — recent acquisitions like Xerdan Shaqiri, Mateo Kovacic, Alex Telles and Dodo have all come and gone already. Fans can only hope that Inter have learned their lesson.
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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