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Goal.com nominates the top three stand-out performers for the Nerazzurri in 2012-13 - cast your vote in the comments box at the foot of the page

It says everything about the dismal nature of Inter’s season that choosing three candidates for the club's player of the season was easy solely because that there were so few viable alternatives.

When the Nerazzurri travelled up to Turin last November and ended Juventus’ 49-game unbeaten run in Serie A with a commanding 3-1 victory, it appeared as if Andrea Stramaccioni was in possession of a squad capable of challenging for the Scudetto. Six months on, just qualifying for Europe is looking increasingly unlikely, with free-falling Inter seventh in the league and now out of the Coppa Italia. Interisti were in dreamland for a while; now they are in a living nightmare.

Stramaccioni has spoken of Inter’s season having been "cursed". He has a point, given how many injuries they have suffered - and to key men too. However, there have, at least, been some bright spots. January arrival Mateo Kovacic is obviously one, but there have been others who have played with the kind of consistency so conspicuous by its absence in Inter's campaign as a whole ...

Below, in alphabetical order, are Goal.com's three nominees for Inter’s player of the season, based on their club performances in all competitions. Cast your vote in the comments box at the foot of the page.

SAMIR HANDANOVIC | GOALKEEPER
Competition Games
Saves Clean Sheets Booked
Sent off
League 29 90 7 3 0
Coppa Italia 2 0 0 0 0
Europe 10 41 4 0 0
Others 0 0 0 0 0
Total 41 131 11 3 0

The way in which Julio Cesar was forced out of San Siro last summer may have been wrong, but the decision to replace him with Samir Handanovic has been proven 100 per cent correct.

The Slovenian shot-stopper has been one of the few success stories of an otherwise trying campaign, with Inter legend Sandro Mazzola recently having been moved to compare Handanovic to Dino Zoff.

The former Udinese man is not quite at that level just yet but, as he proved during the recent Milan derby, he has the talent to establish himself as a modern great.

RODRIGO PALACIO | FORWARD
Competition Games
Goals Assists Booked
Sent off
League 25 12 4 3 0
Coppa Italia 3 2 0 0 0
Europe 10 8 2 0 0
Others 0 0 0 0 0
Total 38 22 6 3 0

Few pundits predicted that Rodrigo Palacio would play anything other than a minor part in Inter’s 2012-13 campaign. However, he quickly established himself in a major supporting role, proving a fine foil for Diego Milito and/or Antonio Cassano.

Then, after both were sidelined by injury, Palacio became Inter’s leading man, almost singlehandedly keeping their European qualification hopes alive by netting two goals apiece in the vital wins over Catania and Sampdoria.

It was no coincidence that Inter’s stuttering season finally collapsed after their surprise star was ruled out of action for three weeks following his double at the Luigi Ferraris.

JAVIER ZANETTI | DEFENDER
Competition Games
Goals Assists Booked
Sent off
League 31 0 1 1
0
Coppa Italia 4 0 0 0 0
Europe 11 0 0 0 0
Others 0 0 0 0 0
Total 46 0 1 1 0

Kris Voakes suggested earlier this month that Javier Zanetti could play until he’s 50. He was only half joking.

Nobody has made more appearances for the Nerazzurri in Serie A this season than their 39-year-old skipper. Nobody has played more minutes. Zanetti is indefatigable; a freak of nature.

We have now reached a point where one doesn’t even have to look for the number on the jersey to know who it is storming forward in the dying seconds of any given Inter game. It is Zanetti. It is always Zanetti. And it feels like it always will be.

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