Can Sime Vrsaljko solve Inter Milan’s right-back woes?

MILAN, ITALY - AUGUST 01: The new signing of FC Internazionale Milano Sime Vrsaljko poses at FC Internazionale headquarters on August 1, 2018 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli - Inter/Inter via Getty Images)
MILAN, ITALY - AUGUST 01: The new signing of FC Internazionale Milano Sime Vrsaljko poses at FC Internazionale headquarters on August 1, 2018 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by Emilio Andreoli - Inter/Inter via Getty Images) /

Signing a player fresh off of a stellar performance at the World Cup is typically a gamble. In the case of Sime Vrsaljko, not so much.

Since winning the the treble in 2010, Serie A giants Inter have been on a steady decline. That ended last season with the appointment of Luciano Spalletti as manager and a return to the Champions League for the first time in six years.

How did things go downhill so quickly? Financial instability played a part, as did poor managerial hires in the post-Mourinho era. The Nerazzurri were only able to find adequate replacements for select positions such as Mauro Icardi for Diego Milito or Samir Handanovic for Julio Cesar.

Unfortunately, the lack of funds coupled with bad investments on the transfer market had left Inter with precious few options in many areas of the pitch. For the past six years Inter have been plagued by inconsistent play and a lack of depth at both full-back positions.

In fact, the club hasn’t had a quality right-back since the final days of Maicon in 2012. With all due respect to Danilo D’Ambrosio, he’s hardly proven himself to be the answer to Inter’s right-back inefficiencies, yet has occupied the position for much of the past five seasons.

During the 2017-18 season it looked as if though Spalletti had found D’Ambrosio’s replacement thanks to the superb play of Joao Cancelo. Since he was on loan from Valencia, however, Inter were unable to retain his services and he eventually moved on to join rivals Juventus.

New owners Suning have provided Inter with organizational stability as well as an influx of money. As a result, Inter reported a huge revenue increase for 2017. The club never lacked ambition, but this was the first time in nearly a decade they had the financial backing to support it.

Inter are also nearing the end of the Financial Fair Play restrictions that have hampered them over the past few years. This has allowed them to have a bit more selectivity in which players they target on the transfer market.

With greater flexibility and an overwhelming desire to dethrone rivals Juventus at the top of the league table, as well as a long overdue return to the Champions League, Inter can no longer afford to exclusively ride the D’Ambrosio train.

Spalletti is of the belief that Croatian international and former Atletico Madrid right-back Sime Vrsaljko can be the permanent solution at right-back for the Nerazzurri. Not unfamiliar to Serie A, Vrsaljko has previously featured for both Genoa and Sassuolo.

After his transfer to Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2016 Vrsaljko began to turn heads globally. It was his stellar performance during the World Cup, however, that has seen his market value reach an all-time high.

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As a right-back Vrsaljko prefers to receive the ball from a deep position and dribble toward the defense. He is an overlapping full-back who is an extremely accurate passer and excels at finding his teammates in open spaces.

Without the ball, Vrsaljko displays great patience and allows the play to develop in front of him rather than running ahead of it. His willingness to get forward coupled with his versatility will have an immediate positive impact on Spalletti’s side.

While not as capable in attack on the left wing, he can cover the opposite flank effectively while defending. He has improved his awareness, timing on tackles and defensive positioning since joining Diego Simeone’s squad two years ago.

Perhaps the biggest asset Vrsaljko brings to Inter is his consistency. Danilo D’Ambrosio has had flashes of great play quickly erased by unforgettable errors. Vrsaljko has proven that he can play at a high level on a regular basis for both club and country. He possesses mental toughness that D’Ambrosio lacks.

D’Ambrosio isn’t a bad player for the record. He’s simply not someone you want starting every match for your club at the highest level of the sport. Purchasing Vrsaljko allows D’Ambrosio to come off the bench and gives Inter much-needed squad depth, especially as it pertains to their back line.

While questions still loom for Inter at left-back as the new season approaches, its easy to understand the excitement being displayed by many Interisti. A defensive partnership of Sime Vrsaljko, Milan Skriniar, and Stefan De Vrij has some pundits calling this the best Inter back line in nearly a decade.