Lautaro Martinez was the sort of signing that Serie A clubs are known for. These signings are often reminiscent of legendary names like Gabriel Batistuta, Cafu, Kaka and Hernan Crespo. Martinez’s move to Inter did quite the same. And he seems to be on the right track in the bid to follow some lofty names.
His well-taken goal against Barcelona in the Champions League raised many eyebrows. It was almost like a global audience had seen him from up-close for the first time. And Lautaro didn’t disappoint. Inter did go on to lose the game but Martinez won many hearts.
The Argentine was probably the Nerazzurri’s best player on that night at the Nou Camp. His movement off the ball always caused Barca problems and he always looked a threat whenever he got on the ball.
So far this season, Lautaro has scored three times in all competitions, assisting once (Whoscored). Playing alongside Sergio Aguero, he also scored twice for Argentina in the Copa America earlier in the summer. He did have a bad game against Slavia in the Champions League but more than the goals he has scored, it is work rate that impressed everyone.
He did very well against Juventus too, even though Inter lost 2-1. The 22-year-old slotted away the penalty and if not for Romelu Lukaku’s failures, the Nerazzurri may have got something out of the game.
Despite playing up front, he made four tackles in that game. His small stature is never a help against a towering defence like Juve’s, but he still won two aerial duels in that game. Lautaro also attempted more dribbles than anyone else in the game (via Whoscored).
He isn’t a striker who sticks close to the last defender and works him. While Lukaku does that job, Martinez presses and hurries the opposition off the ball when they build from the back. Stefano Sensi can also push up and form a 3-4-1-2 to apply an intense press upfront.
Because of that, he brings in something new to the plate than what Inter have. Lukaku boasts of strength and aerial ability. Matteo Politano has direct pace. Alexis Sanchez has a bit of everything. But none of them possess the energy and work-rate of Martinez. This allows Conte to use him as the pressing trigger.
Martinez loves a dribble as well. As much as his work-rate impresses many, his ability to get on the ball and run at the opposition always causes problems. He has recorded the second-highest number of dribbles per game this season – 1.3. Due to that and his tendency to press the opposition, he has also been fouled the most in the current Inter side (Whoscored).
Conte loves a striker like him- a battler who will do more than just score. Lautaro is pretty much like a complete package of a striker who possesses the trademark the South American tenacity and fire. That is exactly what the former Juve manager saw in Carlos Tevez at the Old Lady and in Diego Costa at Chelsea. Having someone like Martinez works in his favour.
The two-striker system seems to suit Lautaro more than the 4-2-3-1 that Luciano Spalletti used last season. He could not get on the ball as much as he would have liked but often dropped deep to allow widemen like Politano and Keita Balde to make runs forward and cut inside. If he had played as the second striker, he could have scored more than six goals.
While he can still perform that job, but he also plays in a two-striker formation for the national team. Paulo Dybala can play upfront with or Aguero can.
For how much Inter spent on him – 22 million euros, he has already done enough to satisfy that tag. In a football world where it is tough to find quality strikers for that fee, the Nerazzurri have unearthed a gem. His release clause of 111 million euros defines as to what he means to Inter.
It is still early days but he is on his way to being another South American superstar in Calcio. He only needs his goals tally to increase. He is already a fans’ favourite. The rest will follow.