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All Inter fans could do for most of the summer months was watch on as their city rivals AC Milan splashed more than €200 million on new players under new Chinese president Yonghong Li and his group of investors.
The Nerazzurri’s response was to spend €7 million on veteran Spanish midfielder Borja Valero, who arrived on an initial three-year deal from Fiorentina. Suffice to say, the Tuscan side’s loss has most definitely been Luciano Spalletti’s gain.
While the Madrid native is a far cry from some of the superstar names who were linked with a move to the black and blue half of Milan, he has proved to be one of the wisest and most cost-effective signings in the recent history of Italian football.
His versatility has been crucial to Inter’s unbeaten start to the league campaign, which currently leaves them sitting just two points behind leaders Napoli.
The former Villarreal man has proved equally adept in both a deep-lying regista role and more forward-thinking trequartista position, where he has thrived by linking up closely with Serie A’s joint top scorer Mauro Icardi.
That said, when playing alongside fellow new arrival Matías Vecino in the double pivot, he has given the Uruguayan a better platform from which to roam freely into the attacking third.
While it is clear that not all of Spalletti’s wishes were granted during his first mercato in Appiano Gentile, it is obvious Borja was one of those; the two of them are a match made in heaven.
From a tactical perspective, the ex Roma boss has almost exclusively favoured a 4-2-3-1 set up throughout his coaching career. The fact his new recruit can offer so much to the team in several positions within that system makes him ideal to spearhead this new project.
Though Borja is a very different type of player to Radja Nainggolan – less dynamic but arguably more technically gifted – there are parallels to be drawn between Spalletti’s use of them both.
Just as the Belgian’s adaptability was a vital reason why the Giallorossi managed to set a record points total last season – despite finishing second – Borja’s continued presence in Inter’s midfield could help La Beneamata to go one better and secure an unlikely nineteenth Scudetto in the club’s long and illustrious history.
With all that in mind, and despite his advancing years, Borja might just go down as one of the great bargains in a football economy which is, quite frankly, at odds with reality.
Written by Jordan Russell
Follow Jordan on Twitter @JordRuss96
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