At the end of last season when it became clear that Julio Cesar would be leaving the club many Inter fans were left feeling perplexed. After all, Cesar had been at the club for 7 seasons and in that time he had won just about everything there is to win at club level and he effectively earned a place in the heart of all Interisti with that incredible save to deny Lionel Messi in the Champions League semi-final at the Nou Camp.
Despite this, Julio Cesar would probably be the first person to admit that, since the treble winning season, he has struggled to replicate his best form and had started to suffer from injuries. As a result he became expendable and Inter quickly realised they were in a position to demand a pay cut, in what is proving to be a similar situation to that which Wesley Sneijder finds himself in at the moment.
Supporting Inter’s stance was the fact that they had just acquired Samir Handanovic from Udinese for just €11 Million and on a considerably cheaper contract. In the end the Brazilian stopper decided to move on and is now earning a living at Premier League strugglers QPR. (I must admit it does make me feel sad to think that a man of his calibre has been reduced to playing at QPR. Surely he can still do a job at a top club?!)
Handanovic, meanwhile, has been doing everything in his power to make Inter fans forget Cesar by putting in top draw performances every time he plays and was one of the main reasons for Inter’s unstoppable away form at the start of the season that saw them concede only one goal in their first 5 matches away from home, a run which included the Milan Derby.
It is always difficult for players to make the step up from a good team to one of the major teams in world football but he has dealt with the pressure. Handanovic had already earned a good reputation, especially when it came to saving penalties. His previous manager at Udinese, Francesco Guidolin, went as far as to claim; “In my view he is the best goalkeeper in Europe and he is mature enough to aspire to a top club.” But it seems he has exceeded the expectations of both Inter fans and pundits alike.
Inter have a tradition of great goalkeepers. Player like Zenga, Pagliuca, Toldo and now Julio Cesar rightly deserves his place as one of the clubs all-time greats. At 28 Handanovic remains relatively young for a goal keeper and it bodes well for the future that he is playing so well at the moment.
Obviously it would be incredibly rash to start declaring Handanovic is one of the greats of the club but it would be fantastic to think that we could be witnessing the beginning of an illustrious career between the sticks for Inter.
Written by Oliver Beatson
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