Great anticipation greeted Sunday’s Serie A debut for Internazionale’s latest import from South America, Lautaro Martinez.
Martinez, 20, was snatched up from Racing Club in July for €22.7 million (Dh95.4m). A plethora of European sides had coveted his signature, including Madrid rivals Real and Atletico.
This sense of excitement was only added to by a promising pre-season that contained four goals in seven run-outs for the Argentina forward. But he never looked like adding to this tally when the Nerazzurri’s top-flight commitments got under way with a disappointing 1-0 reversal at Sassuolo.
Here, we analyse the performance of Inter’s marquee summer buy:
Goals – 0
Assists – 0
Shots – 0
Shots on target – 0
Touches – 33
Passes – 15
Key passes – 0
Dribbles – 0
Dispossessed – 3
Inter head coach Luciano Spalletti’s tactical rejig continued, with the Italian moving away from last term’s 4-2-3-1 formation and placing Martinez behind lone striker Icardi in a 4-4-1-1.
Nascent signs of a budding partnership had been witnessed in pre-season between the Argentines. But a step-up in intensity saw this relationship break down.
Martinez was dispossessed more than any team-mate (three), plus produced zero key passes and shots. Sassuolo also gave him no room to manoeuvre, inflicting five fouls on the attacker – the joint-highest for Inter.
7 - Sassuolo have won more matches versus Inter in Serie A than against any other side – winning 7 of the 11 fixtures. Torment. #SassuoloInter— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) August 19, 2018
Kept on trying – Martinez left Mapei Stadium-Citta del Tricolore with both body and ego bruised. The hosts inflicted heavy handed treatment throughout, meaning this was a harsh introduction to elite European football after 22 goals in 48 league matches for Racing.
Only Ghana wide man Kwadwo Asamoah suffered more fouls than Martinez (six to five) – and he stayed on for all 90 minutes.
To his credit, Martinez attempted to play with bravery despite his 33 touches being the lowest of any outfield starter for Inter. They must back his talent over time.
Leaving his mark – Success on the pitch has come quick for the sublimely talented Martinez.
But space, time and protection granted to him in Argentina was not present in Serie A. The key to long-term success is doing more with less.
An efficiency must be introduced to his game during the months ahead if Inter’s impressive refit is to reach its potential.
1st min FOUL: Welcome to European football. Martinez is upended near the halfway line, just moments after kick-off.
39th min WASTED CHANCE: Martinez finally finds the space he craves, picking up the ball in a promising counter-attacking position. He looks up and dreadfully overhits his pass to strike partner and countryman Mauro Icardi.
69th min SUBSTITUTED: A tough bow is brought to a premature end by Spalletti. Fellow summer addition Keita Balde comes on.
Martinez has wasted no time making the move across the Atlantic Ocean.
He only turns 21-years old later on Wednesday. This is why alarmist reactions should not greet a debut that was fitful at best.
The awful pitch at Mapei Stadium didn’t help. Neither teething problems, as Spalletti attempts to tweak the way 2017/18’s fourth-placed finishers set-up in order to fit Martinez in.
Judging by the exquisite goals and performances in pre-season, much better is to come. From player and club.
All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com
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