Inter Milan and AC Milan have completed a swap deal involving Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini, with a further 7 million euros in compensation for the Nerazzurri. In the history of recent transfers between the Milanese giants, it's the first time that Inter might have got a better deal than Milan.
If statistics were the only barometer to judge this swap by, then Pazzini might seem to be a better goalscoring bet with his 16 goals last season representing a decent return. Pazzini is a decent addition to the Rossoneri, but he certainly isn't a replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimovic. With the mercurial Swede now at PSG, it was certainly a surprising decision by manager Massimiliano Allegri to let go of another creative outlet up front.
Robinho is the only player remaining in the squad who possesses the ability to beat defenders with creativity and trickery. However, after an impressive first season, Robinho's lack of desire and a knack for disappearing in big games resurfaced last season. For Milan to rely solely on him to provide the main spark represents a big risk on the part of Allegri.
Alexandre Pato certainly has the ability to lead the attack and be Milan's leading goalscorer, but the Brazilian forward has been beset by injuries throughout his time at Milan, and surely cannot be expected to carry the attack single-handedly. The idea behind Pazzini's signing must surely be to share that goalscoring burden.
Pazzini is a unique forward in Italy. Not blessed with the greatest technique, Pazzini relies a lot on his aerial prowess and physical presence to score goals. It's a style that's not always suited to the way clubs play in Serie A, nor is it embraced by the Italian national team. AC Milan are a team who have always played with an emphasis on possession, and a preference to keep the ball on the ground. Pazzini might not be a perfect fit for the fluid system that AC Milan rely on. Unless his signing and the departures of Cassano and Ibrahimovic hint at Allegri preferring a more direct style suited to the strengths of Pazzini, married with the raw pace of the young Stephan El Shaarawy.
For Inter, the signing of Cassano represents somewhat of a coup. The Nerazzurri are not playing in the Champions League this season, and as a consequence it's going to be difficult to sign the marquee players they usually do in the transfer window. Cassano played really well for Italy at Euro 2012, and despite the scare of his heart condition, his skill and invention will certainly enhance the quality of Inter's play in the final third.
Diego Milito will certainly enjoy playing up front alongside Cassano. The Argentinian forward is in the same mould as Mario Balotelli, and will appreciate Cassano's ability to drag centre-backs in wide areas, and will also relish Cassano's penchant of creating assists for forwards in the tightest spaces.
Furthermore, Cassano also blends in perfectly with the stylish midfield promptings of Wesley Sneijder, Ricky Alvarez and Fredy Guarin. If Cassano settles in soon, and manager Andrea Stramaccioni keeps his midfield motivated, Inter Milan could end up being one of the most attractive sides to watch in Serie A this season.
After allowing Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf to join AC Milan, Inter fans watched in dismay as the two midfield maestros became instrumental in a team that would dominate Europe for 5 years. While its safe to say Cassano's signing for Inter won't lead to instant glory on the continent, at least Inter fans can be happy that for once they got the better of a transfer involving their neighbours.