The year is 2010 and Inter Milan face Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. Jose Mourinho vs Louis Van Gaal, master vs apprentice, a game with intrigue and sub-plots galore. It was a match that ultimately saw the Serie A giants become champions of Europe, and the prospect of a possible decline seemed unimaginable.
But nearly five years on and, only now, is their time in the wilderness beginning to show signs of drawing to a close. Results remain inconsistent under the stewardship of Roberto Mancini, but in moving for Xherdan Shaqiri the brightness at the end of the tunnel is flickering into a full on flame.
Despite struggling to force his way into the plans of Pep Guardiola, it speaks volumes of the amount of regard people hold Shaqiri in that his departure has actually fuelled anger over at Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.
It would be a tad ironic to label Guardiola as short-minded for this decision, but with Franck Ribery no longer the player of yesteryear and Arjen Robben’s career set to enter its twilight years the future of the club has now lost its spearhead. Regardless of the current crop of academy graduates at their disposal, Shaqiri’s sale could be one the Spaniard comes to regret.
He has never been a consistent pick ever since his departure from his homeland of Switzerland with FC Basel back in 2012, but despite being increasingly marginalised with each passing season the 23-year-old could come back to haunt the Allianz Arena if he leads his new club back into Europe’s top-tier competition.
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Mancini is no stranger to big money transfers. During his time at Manchester City he spent lavishly, with Sergio Aguero, David Silva and Yaya Toure all touching down at the Etihad Stadium during his time in charge. That he has managed to lure Shaqiri to the San Siro is a different achievement altogether.
Though City were blessed with the millions and billions of Sheikh Mansour, Inter are notoriously shrewd when it comes to activity in the transfer market. Back in the summer they were successful in signing a Nemanja Vidic past his prime and a Dani Osvaldo who had spent last term misfiring at Southampton and Juventus. Hardly two signings to get the excitement tingling.
But Shaqiri is a significant coup for the Italian side. Blessed with pace, potency and potential those three reasons are enough for any side to take a punt. At £12million he represents a bargain within the money madness of the transfer window, an opportunity too great in which to resist. For all the talk of Mohamed Salah, this is one name that could see the San Siro regain some of its swagger.
Mancini already moved for Lukas Podolski last week, but this signing is the one that could see the club finally reach those dizzying heights of 2010 once again. The light continues to shine, one that may positively dazzle if the Italian manager can succeed where Walter Mazzarri did not.