Inter Milan president Erick Thohir has told Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport that the squad for the new season will be limited to 25 players. This is partly down to the lack of European competition and it makes sense on a number of levels. This does mean that players will have to leave before others arrive, despite comments from others in the Nerazzurri camp that the forward positions needed strengthening. This does also suggest that manager Roberto Mancini maybe willing to give a leading role to youngster George Puscas.
Inter general director, Marco Fassone, is trying his best to move Xherdan Shaqiri on to allow Ivan Perisic to arrive in his place. This move would add to the width, something that would also be brought from new arrival of Jonathan Biabiany.
The Nerazzurri have to offload players and Nemanja Vidic and Yuto Nagatomo certainly look to be on borrowed time. Even if these players depart, it still leaves the Milanese with 28 players in the first team and as their President said, this is too much. Once away you take away Biabiany and Shaqiri/Perisic (if he arrives) then this leaves Mancini's side with only three recognised strikers. Admittedly, he could get rid of a few more players and bring in forwards, but Gazzetta has reported that another central midfielder is his target after another winger (presumably Perisic) arrives.
This means that Inter's forward line will be led by capocannoniere Mauro Icardi and veteran Rodrigo Palacio, with youngster George Puscas on the bench. Puscas did not appear in Inter's friendly with Stuttgart Kickers, amid rumours of a departure for French club St Etienne. However, the Romanian has turned down offers from clubs like Sampdoria and Udinese before, wanting to stay in Milan where he is contracted until 2019. It was later reported by the Corriere dello Sport that the 19-year-old had sustained a left thigh strain.
Puscas has been recuperating at Inter's training camp in Brunico and it will be of interest to see if he starts in Inter's next friendly against Carpi. He has certainly shown promise in the Primavera and in his few outings for the first team, but is he ready to play such an important part in the Nerazzurri's season?
Puscas joined Inter from Romanian side Liberty Oradea in 2013. It was a huge jump for him at a tender age despite the fact that he had spent brief time training with Arsenal. He is a versatile player who is better as a center forward but can also adapt as a second striker or as a left winger. He has speed, good technique and a maturity in his game that enables him to find space for his teammates at his own expense. With quick feet he certainly has all the attributes needed to be a good striker, but he also has a quality that could make him a great one.
Like his teammate Icardi, Puscas has a killer instinct when it comes to scoring goals. He only needs an instant to sum it all up and knows instinctively where the goal is. He knows when to take a chance and also when his teammates are better positioned to score. His results at the youth level show this. Before he was called into Inter's first team midway through last season, Puscas had managed to score an impressive 16 goals in 11 games for the Primavera side; he also had four in seven for the Romania Under-19s and five in six for his country's Under-21 side.
Puscas is not without fault, however, as he needs to improve both on his strength and his stamina. He was knocked off the ball too easily when making the step up to Serie A, and in his first full 90 minutes in the Coppa Italia against Napoli he seemed to be shattered by the end. That can be corrected with a good preseason and despite the aforementioned flaws, Puscas still managed to produce some impressive passing statistics in his jump up to the first team.
If Mancini is to gamble on Puscas being the first and possibly only reserve striker in Inter's team, then its success may depend on several variables. He has the ability, but his fitness will be key in order to be ready for the rigours of a full Serie A season. Secondly, it depends on formation. If Mancini plays one up front, a shallow striker pool makes sense. But in the first friendly, Mancini played two up top, which is a concern. If Puscas has to come on for Palacio and add an injection of pace and hunger, that would be fine, but what if Icardi suffers a long-term injury? Would Puscas be ready then?
Puscas is no doubt an exceptional talent, but he needs to be nurtured. Whether he is ready to be an integral part of Inter's first team is yet to be seen. Perhaps there will be more acquisitions and this will negate the need to throw him in head first, but if there are no more arrivals at forward for Inter, Puscas will have a lot of pressure on his young shoulders.