After Sneijder the darkness: with Dybala Inter are looking for a new Joya on a free kick

Since the Dutchman stopped hitting from a set piece, Inter have no longer found a true expert on the subject: the Argentine can be, if he finds the pre-lockdown feeling

Paulo Dybala is many things: dribbling, inspiration, goals, assists. All with that splendid southpaw that football fans fall in love with, the same foot with which he has already bagged over a dozen free-kicks in his career. Here, when it comes to those set pieces, the most recent collages in Inter’s memories respond to the name of Wesley Sneijder, hero of the Triplets branded José Mourinho. After him there was not exactly emptiness, but a series of episodic flashes: the Nerazzurri, to aim for the top in Europe, instead need a leading actor, a free-kick specialist. And La Joya has what it takes to be.

The decade

The Serie A season following the treble is the last that Inter fans remember as full of free-kicks: two by Sneijder, one by Samuel Eto’o and one by Philippe Coutinho. Specialists have passed through Milan, but none have managed to establish themselves as the Dutchman: in the last 10 championships, there are 11 Inter goals in all on direct free-kick, plus one indirect. This is a fact that is also conditioned by the three-year chasm between 2018 and 2021, between a goal by Joao Cancelo against Cagliari and a goal by Christian Eriksen against Udinese. Here, the Dane is a specialist, but for the reasons that everyone knows he had to return to the Premier League a year ago. Last September Federico Dimarco transformed a splendid free-kick against Sampdoria, but the most indicative statistic is the fact that in a decade of Serie A no Nerazzurri have managed to score 3 free-kick goals, to give continuity to the matter. Two Hernanes and Ever Banega made it, plus a series of players stopped at one ring: Fredy Guarin (plus two in the Italian Cup), Christian Chivu, Adem Ljajic, Eder (indirect), Marcelo Brozovic, Cancelo, Eriksen (plus the derby di Coppa) and Dimarco.

Like old times

In short, in Viale della Liberazione you would not mind having a man who can be a real threat from his tile, who can hit on a free kick with more continuity. On this front, Dybala has the numbers to be the right man, even if from the first lockdown he has not yet managed to make his left-footed kicker sing. But since he joined Juventus in 2015 until then, La Joya it was what Inter would need today: four consecutive seasons with at least two football centers placed between the various competitions, for 11 masterpieces in total. In short, what only Hernanes and Banega managed to do in the Nerazzurri in a decade, he did it 4 times in a row. The total of 9 signings in the league in the period is already inviting in itself, to which are added the stamp in the Supercoppa final – lost – in 2017 against Lazio and the one in the Champions League in 2019 which earned the internal success in the groups against Atlético Madrid. However, since February 16, 2020 (2-0 at Brescia), Paulo hasn’t hit any more, also thanks to the repeated attempts of Cristiano Ronaldo and recent physical problems. If Dybala likes to feel at the center of the project, punishment can be an opportunity to give him a very welcome pedestal. And to find a specialist that Inter has been missing since the days of Triplets.

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