Sandro Tonali is seen as the future of Italian midfield. While the Azzurri have no shortage of talent in midfield, Tonali is making a name for himself despite everything. For someone who is only 19, that is an achievement in itself. And with passing time, interest in him is only increasing.
A time will come very soon when Tonali will have to make a decision on his future. And there will be no shortage of potential suitors. Inter have been linked with the midfielder, with Juventus also reportedly after him. And those seem to be two of his most genuine options.
For struggling Brescia, Tonali has been one of their best players this season. He has won 1.4 tackles per game for them- the third-best in the side. He has made 0.8 interceptions per game and that is the fifth-best record for first-team regulars. There is a Rino Gattuso in Tonali that allows him to be gritty off the ball.
But as many says, there is an Andrea Pirlo in him too. The youngster has completed 1.5 dribbles per game– the highest in the side despite playing as the defensive midfielder. He constantly likes to win the ball and take it forward, allowing him to play 2.1 key passes per game too.
That shows how complete a midfielder Tonali is. He has both Pirlo and Gattuso in him. And that’s why clubs want him.
As for Juventus this season, there has been a lack of creativity in midfield. This made Maurizio Sarri’s system look dull, as the club did not have enough technical midfielders. The regular inclusion of Rodrigo Bentancur and the presences of Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey has been changing things. But the club’s highest key passes per game come from Cristiano Ronaldo-1.8.
That is less than Tonali, whose numbers are at 2.1. Miralem Pjanic, the deepest midfielder, has been the most creative midfielder with 1.5 key passes per game. With Sami Khedira and Blaise Matuidi not getting any younger with every passing day, they would need depth in midfield as soon as they go away.
Tonali would add that. He would add technicality, creativity and youthful grit to that midfield. And being young, he would be eager to prove himself at a big club.
As for Inter, the club has been making moves in the January transfer window. Christian Eriksen seems on his way, with Arturo Vidal also linked with a move. But having said that, the club already has depth in midfield. While Roberto Gagliardini and Matias Vecino may not have the fixed characteristics in styles that Antonio Conte needs, they have done a job when Stefano Sensi and Nicolo Barella had injury issues.
As much as Tonali would fit right into the box-to-box role that Barella plays, there is uncertainty at Inter about who exactly they want. Vidal would be a much more experienced option- someone Conte has brought the best out of. But Tonali is a younger version and can play in defensive midfield too like he is under Eugenio Corini.
Conte’s signings show that is more into signing tried and tested individuals than new ones. That is one reason why the nerazzurri might not fall for Tonali as much as Juve do.
And it won’t be a disappointment for him. Sarri’s system makes use of players who are good on the ball and Tonali is good on the ball. He will get regular football, with two ageing players likely to be moved on.