Why Ricky Alvarez is the surprise first player to step up as Inter search for a renaissance hero

The Argentine has not had the greatest of starts as the Nerazzurri have struggled, but his improved form over the past few weeks has been one of the few positives in Pinetina
By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Editor

It may be a small sample size, but Inter are all about baby steps right now. A draw in Europe which sees them come out of a hazardous group on top and a rare victory in Serie A which has given them that sniff of fresh air at last. The last week has been a much-needed one for all those of a Nerazzurri persuasion after a horrible beginning to the campaign. And the mini-revival has coincided with a noticeable improvement in the form of summer signing Ricky Alvarez.

First off, let’s be frank. Alvarez was not the bargain Inter were looking for this summer. In a transfer campaign designed to cut costs, they spent €11.8 million for 90 per cent of the rights of a Velez Sarsfield substitute. As early as pre-season, it was obvious that they’d been sold a player who still had much to do to become a first-team regular for a top European outfit, and his inability to make up for his lack of pace seemed a real concern.

Milan (SI)
Palermo (a)
Trabzonspor (h)
CSKA (a)
Napoli (h)
Catania (a)
Juventus (h)
Lille (h)
Cagliari (h)
Trabzonspor (a)
Mins (goals)
63 (0)
20 (0)
35 (0)
84 (0)
61 (0)
30 (0)
12 (0)
23 (0)
45 (0)
89 (1)
But at a time when Claudio Ranieri’s side have been in dire need of a player willing to step up and take the team back into some sort of form, it has not been Wesley Sneijder who has delivered, even before his recent injury. Nor has it been Diego Milito or Giampaolo Pazzini, not even Mauro Zarate complete with his added motivation of an assists bonus. Instead it has been the 23-year-old Argentine.

Coming off the bench against Cagliari at half-time on Saturday, he supplied the opening for Philippe Coutinho to fire Inter into a two-goal lead. It was his first assist in the club’s colours and earned him a start on Tuesday in the Champions League trip to Trabzonspor. By the time he was replaced in the 89th minute, he’d scored his first goal for the world champions and earned his longest run-out all season.

Having toiled for much of the campaign so far, and been named in the starting line-up only three times in the previous 15 fixtures, it was pleasing to finally see a smile on Alvarez’s face. And it reflected a more widespread air of relief in the Inter camp too.

Looking forward, the fixture list isn’t overly generous. In-form Siena host the Nerazzurri on Saturday, then there are fixtures with Udinese, Fiorentina and Genoa to come. Not grandstand games, but tough assignments all the same, especially when your form has been like Inter’s so far.

And as Ranieri looks for his side to kick on from their recent upturn, he will be hoping that Alvarez can continue to carry the charge in the short term at least. He won’t be expecting miracles – players don’t suddenly learn how to become faster – but he will be hoping that the Argentine continues to show an understanding of how best to contribute with his flair and his efficient left foot.

With Sneijder still missing and Coutinho only occasionally looking up to standard, there is a distinct lack of key attacking midfielders who can help take Inter forward until a potential move into the transfer market in January. Alvarez could be their man.

His suitability for leading an attack in a title race is still questionable in the extreme, but needs must right now, and Alvarez is their best bet on present form.

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