Inter move 'a bit of a shock' – Sainsbury

The Australian defender hadn’t expected to return to Europe so soon after joining Jiangsu Suning but wants to capitalise on his Serie A chance

New Inter defender Trent Sainsbury has admitted his loan move from Jiangsu Suning on transfer deadline day came as a shock but he insists he will “go all out to play” for the Serie A club.

Inter and Jiangsu, who are owned by the same Chinese company, rushed through an agreement on Tuesday to send Sainsbury from China to Italy after Andrea Ranocchia had left the San Siro to join Hull City for the rest of the season.

The Socceroos centre-back was fully committed to a second season in the Chinese Super League but will attempt to settle quickly in Milan as he looks to make the most of the next six months at Inter.

Having joined Jiangsu just over a year ago from Eredivisie outfit PEC Zwolle, Sainsbury never thought he would be heading back to Europe now.
“I didn’t expect to go back so quickly and I must admit to go to a club of this stature is a bit of a shock,” he told the Daily Telegraph.

“I was thinking maybe I would go back to Holland and prove myself in European football again but this massive opportunity has come my way, one that I certainly couldn’t turn down.

“It’s the chance to play with and against some of the best players in Europe, in fact some of the best in the world. To go and pit myself against them will be a good fight — it’s a short time period, so that allows me to give everything I possibly have until the end of the loan period and see where it takes me.”

Trent Sainsbury’s incredible Inter-national journey

Realistically, three players – Miranda, Jeison Murillo and Gary Medel – are ahead of the Australia international in Inter’s central defensive pecking order.

But with Miranda having been sent off in Inter’s Coppa Italia loss to Lazio this week, Sainsbury could be in contention for game time when Stefano Pioli’s side visit Serie A leaders Juventus on Sunday.

#Sainsbury: “L’@Inter è stata uno choc, ma ora voglio lasciare il segno” –
— (@Sport_Mediaset) February 1, 2017
“I’m going to have to adjust very quickly, no doubt – European football is dog-eat-dog,” Sainsbury said.

“But I don’t want to go there just to make up the numbers or for the experience, I want to go all out to play.”

Inter have won seven games in a row in the Italian top flight to sit fourth in Serie A, just five points behind second-placed Roma, with Juventus four points further ahead.

Inter 1-2 Lazio: Nerazzurri's Coppa Italia dreams go up in smoke

The Romans were forced to dig deep late on with 10 men when Brozovic pulled the hosts back in contention, but held on to reach the semi-finals

Inter crashed out of the Coppa Italia as Stefano Pioli was haunted by former club Lazio, who claimed a 2-1 quarter-final victory at San Siro.

The hosts came into the tie on a nine-match winning streak and Lazio had lost two straight games, but the form book was turned upside down in a match that saw both sides finish with 10 men.

Felipe Anderson headed in his third goal of the season in the first half as Serie A’s fourth and fifth-placed teams did battle in the cup.

And Lucas Biglia struck with a second-half penalty after Miranda had been sent off for a foul on Ciro Immobile.

Inter had hopes of a comeback when Stefan Radu received a second yellow for the visitors and Marcelo Brozovic struck with a late header, but Lazio survived.

Lazio, who are now one step away from a third Coppa Italia final in five years, will face either city rivals Roma or second-tier Cesena in the semi-finals.

Pioli’s men, meanwhile, are still waiting for a first final appearance since 2011 and their sole focus for the rest of 2016-17 will be on Champions League qualification.

Inter made the stronger start, Ivan Perisic firing narrowly wide before Geoffrey Kondogbia – in as one of five changes – sent a drive against the foot of the post after Biglia had lost possession in a dangerous area.

But it was Lazio who took the lead against the run of play after 20 minutes. Senad Lulic sent in an inswinging cross from the left and Anderson escaped the attention of Cristian Ansaldi to guide a deft header into the far corner.

Simone Inzaghi’s men were buoyed by the opener and should have doubled their lead with two golden chances before half-time.

First, Immobile, who was returning to the side as part of four alterations for the visitors, blazed over after Miranda’s mistake had presented with him a superb chance.

Anderson was then sent clean through by Radu, but somehow failed to beat Samir Handanovic one-on-one, the goalkeeper making a crucial save.

At the other end, Federico Marchetti saved from Brozovic, while Antonio Candreva had a strong penalty claim turned down after he was challenged by both Patric and Marco Parolo.

Pioli made a double half-time change with captain Mauro Icardi and Joao Mario brought on, but Lazio soon squandered another great opportunity as Parolo fired over from inside the six-yard box after Handanovic parried Wesley Hoedt’s header.

The second goal was coming and it arrived from the penalty spot after 56 minutes. After Joao Mario lost possession, Alessandro Murgia’s floated pass released Immobile, who was felled by Miranda as he prepared to shoot.

That saw the defender sent off and Biglia confidently dispatched the resulting spot-kick into the top corner.

Inter did not give up with 10 men – Jeison Murilo missed the target with a free header and Icardi had an aerial effort of his own deflect inches wide.

But Lazio remained a threat, Anderson’s mixed night continuing when he collected Lulic’s pass and finished poorly off-target with only Handanovic to beat.

Radu saw red with 14 minutes to play after he fouled Icardi having already been booked in the first half and Brozovic headed in impressively with six minutes to play after Perisic had diverted Candreva’s cross into his path.

But it proved just too late for Inter as Lazio held on under intense late pressure.

Who is Trent Sainsbury? From Gosford to Jiangsu to Milan – Australian defender's incredible Inter-national journey

The Socceroos defender has earned a dream move to one of Europe’s grand old clubs but can he make an impact?

Inter fans are likely to wake up on Wednesday with one question on their mind after the Serie A club’s shock deadline day move.

Who exactly is Trent Sainsbury?

It wouldn’t be a huge surprise either if Sainsbury is equally bemused at having joined one of Europe’s grand old clubs.

The Socceroos defender has moved to Inter on loan from Chinese Super League (CSL) club Jiangsu Suning for the rest of the season after the Serie A outfit lent Andrea Ranocchia to Hull City on Tuesday.

#WelcomeSainsbury! Find out which shirt number the new #Inter defender will wear #FCIM
— F.C. Internazionale (@Inter_en) January 31, 2017
Such is the global nature of football’s new world order, however, that this move owes just as much to Jiangsu’s needs in the CSL as it does to a gap in Stefano Pioli’s Inter squad.

But although there may be some critics questioning Sainsbury’s ability to make an impact in Serie A, the 25-year-old has the opportunity to turn this deal into a win for all interested parties.

A road less travelled

Born in Perth, Sainsbury’s professional football career began on the other side of Australia in the small coastal town of Gosford.

The highly-rated central defender joined Central Coast Mariners in 2010 as an 18-year-old and after two seasons as a fringe player he was central to the club’s maiden A-League championship of 2012-13.

Sainsbury started all but two of the Mariners’ 29 matches, including Central Coast’s 2-0 grand final triumph over Western Sydney Wanderers to claim the title.

The lanky defender departed Australia midway through the next season after 69 appearances in all competitions for the Mariners, joining PEC Zwolle in the Netherlands.

Sainsbury’s Dutch sojourn started in dreadful fashion as he fractured his kneecap on a submerged sprinkler during his Eredivisie debut.

The injury kept Sainsbury sidelined for the rest of the 2013-14 campaign but the next season he began to show some promise, playing 23 matches in all competitions.

After playing an integral role in Australia’s maiden Asian Cup triumph in early 2015, Sainsbury appeared ready to take the next step in Europe only to leave for China within a year.

His decision to join Jiangsu received a mixed reception in Australia but Sainsbury had a strong debut CSL season, playing 29 matches as his club finished second behind Guangzhou Evergrande in the league and the Chinese FA Cup.

Sainsbury to CSL – ‘Who can blame him?’ says Australian defender

Having moved to Inter, Sainsbury is at the highest profile club of all current Australia internationals.

The loan deal may have a ‘right place, right time’ feel to it, but the Australian wouldn’t be the first player in football history to capitalise on a slice of luck.

Surplus to Jiangsu’s requirements

The simple reason why Sainsbury has been chosen as defensive cover at Inter is that the Milan-based club and Jiangsu Suning have the same Chinese owners.

This was a deal that could be organised quickly once Ranocchia departed for the Premier League.

Recent changes to the CSL’s foreign player rules also meant Jiangsu were keen to offload Sainsbury as they have an overabundance of imports heading into the 2017 campaign.

CSL clubs will only be able to field three imports at any one time this season, while there is no longer any benefit of having a player from another Asian Football Confederation (AFC) nation.

Previously, the CSL allowed four foreign players on the pitch with one of those spots reserved for AFC players.

CSL gold rush could be over for Aussies

With Sainsbury gone, Jiangsu have Brazilian duo Alex Teixeira and Ramires on their books, plus Colombian forward Roger Martinez and South Korean centre-back Hong Jeong-ho.

That quartet will be able to play together when Jiangsu compete in the AFC Champions League (ACL) this year, as the continental competition operates the so-called 3+1 import quota.

While Sainsbury was a regular at the back for Jiangsu last year, new coach Choi Yong-soo may have preferred compatriot Hong to the Socceroos defender in 2017.

“We greatly appreciate the contributions made by Sainsbury last season and thanks for all the joy and pride he brought to our fans,” read a statement from Jiangsu.

“We wish him luck and all the best in his new challenge.”

Win-win situation for Inter

Inter fans shouldn’t believe, however, that they have replaced an Italy international with a CSL reject.

Over the past two years, Sainsbury has become one of the first players picked by Australia coach Ange Postecoglou as the Socceroos have been crowned Asian champions and put themselves in a good position to reach the 2018 World Cup.

Sainsbury’s height and pace means that he is a physical match for most strikers, while he is used to starting attacks from the back due to Postecoglou’s penchant for possession-based football.

As a foreign defender in China, Sainsbury was expected to mark the best opposition striker every week.

In 2016, the top five goal-scorers in the CSL collectively scored just two goals against Jiangsu when Sainsbury played.

In reality though, just as Ranocchia wasn’t a favourite of Pioli, neither does Inter’s coach have to rely on Sainsbury.

Hull City sign Ranocchia on loan

Miranda and Jeison Murillo will be expected to remain Pioli’s preferred central defensive pair.

But with Miranda having received a red card in Inter’s Coppa Italia loss to Lazio, there could be an opportunity for Sainsbury to make an early impact if he’s given a dream debut in the Derby d’Italia on Sunday against Juventus.

Chile international Gary Medel, who made his return from a knee injury last week, is the favourite to cover Miranda.

Signing Sainsbury on loan is a shrewd move by Inter as they can simply send him back to Jiangsu at the end of the season if he can’t perform at the level required.

But with Pioli’s other central defensive options – Marco Andreolli and Yao – having played just one league match between them this term, there is room for Sainsbury to impress Inter’s boss.

It is the chance of a lifetime for the Socceroos centre-back.

Hull defender Davies ruled out as Ranocchia speculation grows

The Tigers have been hit with a blow after the 31-year-old was ruled out but could be about to bring in an experienced replacement

Hull City centre-back Curtis Davies has been ruled out for around eight weeks with a hamstring injury, amid speculation the Premier League strugglers are poised to bring in Inter defender Andrea Ranocchia.

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Davies limped off during the opening stages Hull’s 4-1 FA Cup defeat to Championship Fulham on Sunday.

A brief statement posted on the club’s official website confirmed the severity of the 31-year-old’s injury and reports on Monday suggested Marco Silva could quickly secure cover at centre-back.
Ranocchia, who has 21 caps for Italy, has been linked with a loan move to the KCOM Stadium until the end of the season by Italian media.

The 28-year-old has been restricted to nine appearances for Inter this season.

Icardi is no traitor: Tardelli defends Inter man after Maradona attack

The Azzurri legend wants Icardi to be judged for on-field matters, while stating his faith that Balotelli can be one of the world’s best

World Cup-winning former Italy player Marco Tardelli believes criticism of Mauro Icardi is unjustified. 

The Argentine has been the subject of a stinging verbal rebuke from compatriot Diego Maradona over the Inter captain’s marriage to the ex-wife of former team-mate Maxi Lopez. 

But Tardelli pointed out that he should be judged solely on what he does on the pitch. 

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“Icardi wants to live his life, he is not a traitor and nobody has to tell him what to think,” he said of the 23-year-old to Omnisport . 

“Icardi is doing well at Inter, is he not? He is scoring a lot and last year found the net 20 times. He has a lot of quality. If [in Argentina] they link him to gossip, well… even Maradona was linked to gossip.”

Tardelli also backed Mario Balotelli to achieve his potential after a difficult few years.

Balotelli has struggled to fulfil the promise he showed at Inter and Manchester City, drifting through an indifferent spell at AC Milan before failing miserably to make an impact at Liverpool.

The striker has offered a reminder of what he is capable of after leaving Anfield for Nice in August, scoring nine goals in 11 Ligue 1 appearances. 

And Tardelli, who won the 1982 World Cup with the Azzurri and starred for Juventus and Inter during his impressive career, backed the wayward forward to get it right before it is too late.

“I am always in favour of giving a player his last chance and Balotelli can still become a great player,” the five-time Scudetto winner said.

“So far he is not accomplished as a player but boasts an immense talent. I hope he can do it. It will be very hard for him but I hope he can make it.”


Higuain: Beating Inter will move Juve closer to Serie A title

The Argentine reiterated Gianluigi Buffon’s assertion that the Nerazzurri are in immense form ahead of their clash, but sees opportunity in the game

Gonzalo Higuain believes Juventus will take a huge step toward the Serie A title if they beat Inter at the weekend, but has warned his team-mates a tough game awaits them.

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Inter have climbed to fourth place in the table after embarking on a seven-game winning run and Gianluigi Buffon claimed at the weekend they are better than Real Madrid and Barcelona on current form.

Higuain has acknowledged Inter are a force to be reckoned with at the moment, but is nonetheless hopeful Juventus can move further clear of their rivals on Sunday.

The reigning champions hold a nine-point lead over Inter heading into Sunday’s encounter, while they have a game in hand.
“Buffon was right when he praised Inter, they are up there with Real Madrid on current form,” Higuain told reporters.

“But if we beat them on Sunday, we will take a major step toward winning the Scudetto.

“It will be a tough game, though. It is important to go out there with the right attitude.

Higuain salutes Allegri ‘courage’

“Inter have a great history and have won a lot of titles. They deserve respect.”

Higuain has scored 15 goals in 21 Serie A encounters for Juve since making his €90 million switch from Napoli. The Bianconeri currently sit four points clear of second-placed Roma, with Inter a further five points behind ahead of the encounter in Turin.

Coutinho sale one of my biggest regrets, admits Inter sporting director

The Brazil international departed San Siro for £8.5 million four years ago, and it is a move that continues to haunt the Italians

Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio has confessed that his decision to sell Philippe Coutinho to Liverpool ranks as one of the greatest regrets in his career.

Lallana named POTY 2016

The Brazilian playmaker barely featured for the Serie A side and was sold to the Anfield club in January 2013 for a fee of £8.5 million.

Since then, the 24-year-old has established himself as one of the finest players in the Premier League.

“It was a great regret for me to have to sell him — perhaps one of my greatest regrets in over 20 years at Inter,” he told ESPN .
“I have splendid memories of Coutinho, both as a footballer and of the lad himself. When he got here, it struck us how outstanding he was immediately – he was serious and wanted to work and you could see that he had all that was needed to go on and do what he has done so far.”

Despite this quality, the South American would find his chances at San Siro restricted and has flourished since moving to England. So far this season, he has scored six goals and assisted seven more in only 20 outings for the Reds. 

Icardi is a traitor and he'll pay – Maradona

The young Inter captain is regarded as one of the best strikers around, but El Diego does not care for his countryman

Diego Maradona has labelled Mauro Icardi a ‘traitor’ due to the striker’s involvement in the messy and much-publicised divorce between Maxi Lopez and Wanda Nara.

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Nara, an Argentine media personality, had been married to Lopez while he and Icardi were still team-mates at Sampdoria, but became intimate with the latter despite being in wedlock.

Icardi and Nara were married in 2014, shortly after divorce proceedings with Lopez had been finalised, but Maradona cares little about whether the pair ruined their reputations for true love.
“Icardi is a traitor,” Maradona told Canale 5. “He will be a great player, but [Serie A icon Gabriel] Batistuta is worth ten of him.

“He [Icardi] can’t go to dinner with his team-mates then get married to the wife of his friend.

“He’ll pay for what he did to Maxi Lopez.”

Revealed: Ibra’s advice to Tuanzebe

Always good for a controversial quote – especially where fellow icon Pele is involved – Maradona was seemingly pushed to dish out more dirt on his legendary colleague, but rather amusingly refused to take the bait.

“Pele was great, I don’t like arguing with him.”

Inter 3-0 Pescara: Hosts up to fourth with seventh straight win

Danilo D’Ambrosio, Eder and Joao Mario were on target as the Nerazzurri stretched their winning run by inflicting a 14th league loss on the visitors

Inter’s charge up the Serie A table continued on Saturday as they beat struggling Pescara 3-0 in their seventh successive league win to move up to fourth.

Stefano Pioli has overseen a remarkable upturn in form since replacing Frank de Boer in November and they were ruthless at San Siro against Pescara, continuing their impressive winning streak to capitalise on Lazio’s defeat at home to Chievo and move up one place in the standings.

Pescara’s form coming into the contest was in stark contrast to Inter’s, having lost 10 in 12 in Serie A, and the only surprising aspect of the hosts’ opening goal was that it took 23 minutes to arrive.

Danilo D’Ambrosio was the one to break Pescara’s resolve and Joao Mario added a second just before the break to effectively put the game beyond the relegation favourites.

Inter were significantly less dominant after the interval, as they sat back and appeared content to let Pescara have the ball.

But they did eventually finish things off, as second-half substitute Eder converted shortly after his introduction, wrapping up a routine triumph to strengthen their challenge for a Champions League spot.

Rock-bottom Pescara were unsurprisingly subjected to relentless pressure right from the start in Milan and, although the home side took a little while to click in the final third, the visitors struggled to contain them.

Inter’s dominance eventually paid off in the 23rd minute, as D’Ambrosio made the most of slack marking to steer Marcelo Brozovic’s pinpoint left-wing cross in at the back post.

That goal gave Inter further encouragement and Ivan Perisic nearly added another just after the half-hour mark, seeing his curling left-footed effort go just wide from 25 yards.

Pescara were their own worst enemies on numerous occasions and they almost gifted Inter a second goal a few moments later, when Joao Mario intercepted debutant Grigoris Kastanos’ woeful pass across the edge of the box before shooting straight at Albano Bizzarri.

But the Portugal international made amends just before the break, latching on to Perisic’s teasing delivery to give Inter a two-goal cushion.

Inter appeared to ease off a little at the start of the second half, allowing Pescara to see more of the ball and as a result they almost pulled one back in the 59th minute.

Jean-Christophe Bahebeck burst into the left side of the Inter box and saw his shot blocked by Samir Handanovic, before Valerio Verre smashed the rebound just over.

That let-off seemed to jolt Inter back into life and a few moments later Perisic again went close from 25 yards, as the home side looked to finish Pescara off.

And eventually the result was put beyond all doubt 17 minutes from time – Mauro Icardi squaring across the face of goal despite appearing to be offside and teeing Eder up for an easy finish.

Inter in better form than Real Madrid & Barcelona, warns Buffon

The Italy shot-stopper is wary of the threat posed by Stefano Piolo’s men, who are closing in on 10 consecutive victories and nine points behind Juve

Gianluigi Buffon has warned that Juventus must respect Inter, noting that the San Siro outfit are currently enjoying a better run of form than the likes of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Juventus extended their lead at the top of Serie A to four points with a 2-0 win over Sassuolo on Sunday and their next outing comes in a week’s time against Inter on February 5.
Higuain and Khedira fire Juventus to victory
Stefano Pioli’s side are in tremendous form and stretched their winning streak to nine consecutive games in all competitions with a 3-0 victory against Pescara on Saturday. 

They must contest a Coppa Italia quarter-final against Lazio prior to their upcoming meeting with Juve, but Buffon remains wary of the Nerazzurri, who came out on top when the sides met last September.
“Now we’ll play against Inter, whose form right now is better than Barcelona and Real Madrid’s,” the 39-year-old told Sky Italy after his side’s win over Sassuolo.

“It will be difficult, we respect them. They are strong and they proved it in the first match of the season.”

Barcelona outrage over disallowed goal
Juventus’ win over Sassulo at the Stadio Citta del Tricolore came thanks to goals from Gonzalo Higuain and Sami Khedira.

The result means that the Bianconeri have pulled away – temporarily at least – from second-placed Roma, who suffered a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Sampdoria.