Amongst all the transfers this summer, it was the Milan clubs who swapped strikers, which has been the most surprising and well planned by Internazionale. Inter’s 28-year-old Italian striker Giampoalo Pazzini suffered a poor year with the Nerazurri playing in 33 matches and only notching 5 goals and was to be one of many players offloaded in the summer transfer season by Inter as they try and reshape their squad. Nearly the entire Inter team had an off year that saw manager Rafa Benitez fired almost instantly. At AC Milan, 30-year-old striker Antonio Cassano only participated in 16 matches, scoring 3 goals but assisting on 10, because of health issues involving his heart. Therefore not a great first full season at Milan albeit due to health problems rather than form.
Both clubs decided to send their star strikers packing as Cassano questioned Milan’s ambitions after the sales of their top players Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to PSG and he had also never really fit into the Milan fold since joining from Sampdoria anyways. Inter wanted to cut all the dead wood loose from their poor season and underperforming Pazzini headed that list. The two former teammates at Sampdoria and good friends off the field swapped teams while remaining in Milan in what looks to be a relatively fair trade other than the fact that Milan also had to pay Inter €7 Million as well as sending over a top player.
Cassano is two years older than Pazzini and with his heart problems over the past year, that does not make him an ideal transfer target and that is perhaps why Milan had to pay the extra amount of cash to land Pazzini but is the gulf between the two that many millions in difference? Between 2008 and 2011, which were the years where Cassano joined Sampdoria from Real Madrid before moving to Milan, and Pazzini made the move from Fiorentina to Sampdoria where they were teammates before his transfer to Inter, Pazzini did outscore Cassano with 57 goals to Cassano’s 36 with their golden years both coming while playing as teammates at Sampdoria. This is not necessarily because Giampaolo Pazzini is a much better player in comparison to Antonio Cassano but rather their roles within the team are much different. Cassano was largely responsible for much of the good form of his striking partner as over the course of that same time he had 28 assists to Pazzini’s 4 and often plays in a more withdrawn role. Where Pazzini is a penalty box area striker who is on the field only to score, Cassano is a forward who likes to run with the ball, has great passing and can play on the left wing with ease as well as occasionally fill a trequartista role from time to time. Pazzini is a goal scorer, while Cassano scores goals while creating many more, who is of more value? The best option seems to be having both play in the same squad as they did at Sampdoria but with much of Serie A going broke, that is not an option for either side.
Italian national team manager and overall genius Cesare Prandelli made hisdecision in bringing Cassano to Euro 2012 and leaving Pazzini behind after a disappointing season. Although Cassano had missed much of the year with health issues and is two years Pazzini’s senior, he was not only selected to travel with the team but was chosen as Italy’s main focal point in attack alongside the youngster Mario Balotelli. While Balotelli scored a couple of wonder goals that caught the headlines, his performances were very hit and miss as he would also pick up silly yellow cards, sulk, and disappear from matches from time-to-time as Balotelli frustratingly can. Antonio Cassano is no stranger to controversy and had a touch of Balotelli in him during his younger years at AS Roma, but has since grown up a lot as a player and a person in recent seasons and despite modest statistics playing for Italy at the Euros, he was one of the most consistently excellent performers. In his 6 starts, Cassano notched 1 goal, 1 assist, and 15 shots, while playing wide left and although those are not dynamite numbers, those who watched Italy’s matches were rather convinced that he was their most potent threat in both a goal scoring and creative manner (although creativity marks will always be heaped mainly upon Andrea Pirlo). Prandelli, who managed to reshape the entire persona of the Italian team, knew that Cassano was the man to do this job and the striker proved him right as Italy surprisingly made it to the final only to lose to Spain. Pazzini stayed home and watched this all on his television, presumably.
Both players have now played one match with their new teams with Giampaolo Pazzini making a far greater impression on his debut. Pazzini started as the lone striker for Milan and notched a penalty and two goals in the final 15 minutes to hit a hat trick for his new club in a 3-1 win over Bologna. Although this is only one match, he has already shown that he still has great goal scoring abilities and perhaps was worth the €7 Million plus Cassano. Internazionale played Roma in their second match of the season losing 3-1 with their only goal coming from a fortuitous deflection off of an Antonio Cassano strike. Also hitting a goal on his debut, Cassano did come off in the 51st minute as not much was going right for Inter in the match. Inter manager Andrea Stramaccioni replaced the deep lying Cassano with Rodrigo Palacio to play up alongside Diego Milito, and this only furthered Inter’s problems in attack as both Palacio and Milito were trying to play the same position, whereas Cassano would hold back and release Milito who likes to play on the shoulder of the last defender. Based off of these results the Italy manager has now called up Giampaolo Pazzini to the Italian squad for their upcoming World Cup Qualifiers and left out Antonio Cassano. Is this because of their performances in just one match? That is hard to believe and Prandelli has already spoken to the media and said that he left Cassano at home because the striker says he is only 50-60% fit at the moment, and why not give Pazzini a recall if he is in good form?
Pazzini is a pure goal scoring center forward, while Cassano is a trickier customer who may not outscore Pazzini but offers more options and can play more positions. Despite Cassano’s past heart issue, occasional disciplinary problems, and slightly advanced age, is he truly worth so much less than Pazzini? Milan seem to think so but this is not the first time that Inter have managed to swap star strikers and also gain a fair chunk of money in the process to many disbelieving fans and pundits’ eyes. In 2009, Inter sent Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Barcelona for Samuel Eto’o who are both roughly the same age (Eto’o being barely a year older) and similarly great scoring records in the previous number of seasons. Both Ibrahimovic and Eto’o are a class above Pazzini and Cassano but with his best years at Barcelona Eto’o managed to become the top striker in the world amazingly scoring 157 goals between 2003 and 2009 before going on to have a solid two seasons at Inter scoring 49 goals in all competitions. He has now moved to Anzhi in Russia and become at highest paid player in the world at age 31 earning $28 million a season.
Ibrahimovic between 2003-2009 with Juventus then Inter scored 115 goals, and although got off to a great start with Barcelona finishing the season with 21 goals in all competitions, he was in the dog house with Pep Guardiola by season’s end and was to be replaced as talisman up front by David Villa. Although that is not a bad tally, he was out of favour by the end of the season for his attitude problems and not fitting into the Barcelona style of play and was shipped off to AC Milan after only one year. Therefore although Ibrahimovic is no doubt one of the top strikers in the world, he is slightly outclassed by Samuel Eto’o but when Inter sent Ibrahimovic to Barcelona in exchange for Eto’o it was Barcelona who paid an extra whopping £35 million to get Ibrahimovic! So not only did Inter get the better player but they also got a transfer fee that could buy almost any other top player they could want. 7 Million Euros is not as good as 35 million British Pounds but perhaps although Pazzini does often outscore Cassano by the end of the year, Inter have done a good bit of business in picking up a player that could possibly be of slightly higher quality (depending on who you ask) and a good amount of pocket change to boot. Either way it is good business by Massimo Moratti.