Thursday, July 31, 2008

Is Onyewu The Answer To Inter's Defensive Woes?

I recall during the 2006 World Cup when a colleague from La Stampa turned to me and called Oguchi Onyewu, the "American Materazzi." Of course this was well before Materazzi's incident with Zinedine Zidane during the World Cup final so there was no doubt he meant it as a compliment to the American player curently with Standard Liege. Two years later, I wonder if the fates of Materazzi and Onyewu may now somehow be connected.

Jose Mourinho has taken the reins of a powerful Inter Milan side which now finds itself in a defensive emergency just three weeks before the start of the Serie A season. Recent injuries to defenders Marco Materazzi and Christian Chivu have left the Nerazzurri with some big holes in central defense as they look to defend the Scudetto for yet another year. This has led Inter's president Massimo Morratti to back onto the transfer market looking for a solution.

The loss of the soon to be 35 year-old Materazzi is a particularly hard blow given his strong physical presence in the middle, which is hard to replace at this stage. There was some talk in Milan of an interest in bringing in Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvahlo, who played for Mourinho at both Porto and Stamford Bridge. This may not be so easy since the failure to seal a deal on Frank Lampard may have soured both sides soured on any further negotiations right now.

When you look at the transfer pool at this late stage, there is not much depth in the available central defenders. This makes me wonder if Mourinho may look to acquire Oguchi Onyewu not only as an early season stand-in but as a player to take on Materazzi's role in the future or better yet, to give him a sturdy physical partner to replace the often ailing Chivu. The new Inter boss had been keen to sign Onyewu in January 2007 during his last season at Chelsea but was not able to convince his club to spend the money at the time. Having been sold on him once before, could Mourinho now decide that the "American Materazzi" is at least a short term answer to Inter's defensive woes?
At the same time, if Chelsea did sell Carvahlo to Inter, could this open an opportunity for Onyewu at Stamford Bridge and give Gooch the Premiership break he has been looking for? Is Gooch even ready for either club?
All speculation aside, the Bundesliga's FC Cologne remains among the most interested in acquiring Onyewu for the 2008-2009 season. With 30 days left in the transfer period, only time (and money) will tell where he ends up.

2 comments:

Aaron said...

Obviously you have better information that I do, but isn't Standard Liege to Inter a bit too big of a move for Gooch? Especially considering his struggles at Newcastle? I would love to see Gooch move to a larger club, but Inter seems like maybe a bit more than Gooch could handle right now. Hope I'm wrong...

Chris Courtney said...

Aaron,
Thanks for your note. I agree that its a stretch but given the quality of players still available on the market, it may be possible. The main reason I even bother to speculate is that Mourinho once made public stink at Chelsea because they would not fund the purchase of Gooch - a player he wanted. Now that "the special one" is at Inter and neeeding defensive help, it only makes sense that he would start from his own list of preferred players.

Gooch's agent (who is quite a clever one) was probably on the phone to Inter once word on Materazzi came out last night.

Ciao,

Chris