Year End Player Review: Defenders

It is that time of year again, when we look back and try to assess. As Inter has such a large squad, I am breaking the review into three parts: Defenders, Midfielders, and Forwards. In addition, I have some help for this post. MAD has been toying with the idea of helping out around here - maybe with a weekly column - so, as sort of a test run, he has co-written this post with me. Or, more accurately, I have horned in on his player review. I would love to hear what you all think of our defensive players, so be sure to rate them in the comments.

GRADE KEY:
4 = Horrific
5 = Ugh
5.5 = Average
6 = Slightly better than average
6.5 = Good
7 = Double Plus Good
7.5 = Excellent
8 = Great
9 = Stupendous
10 = Fan-freaking-tabulous

My comments are in blue, MAD's are in Black.


GOALKEEPERS:

Julio Cesar

How good was Cesar this season? He is now, because of this season, in the conversation of Best Goalkeeper in the World. Unlike some others on the team, ahem ahem, he stepped up big time during the Champions League. He isn’t perfect, he still has some tendencies to deflect, rather than catch and he also tends to let up a bit when playing against lesser teams.

How can I possibly find anything wrong with the dreamiest keeper on the planet? I think we should be clear - there is no way that Inter would have won the league without him. Plus, he did all that he could to keep us in the Champions League during that home game against Manchester United. He has amazing reactions and can pull those miracolo saves out of thin air. He has fine positional sense, and, I would argue, is the best with his feet on the peninsula (among keepers, of course). Plus, he legitimately seems like a nice guy. Holy cow! and have you seen his wife and family? The whole freaking lot of them are just adorable. There is no other keeper I would rather have at Inter and if he ever leaves I will cry for a week. Ibra can go, Julio Cesar is priceless.

Overall Grade: 8, 10+

Francesco Toldo

Toldo did an admirable job as backup. He was rather disappointing against Palermo, for example, but then again he played well during the Coppa games and the group stage of the Champions League.

Toldo has shown that he still has grabby hands, but his reflexes are just not as quick as they once were. He did drop the ball a bit against Sampdoria (snicker) in the Coppa, but I still think he is a perfectly good back-up keeper. For me, his highlights were our home game against Anorthosis and the Coppa Italia game against Roma. He seems to love the team and I am more than happy to keep him on until he retires - which I think is next year.

Overall Grade: 5.5, 6

Paolo Orlandoni

MAD completely forgot about poor Paolo. True, he is our third-string keeper and only saw about 20 minutes of play this season, but he has suited up for every game and sat there on the bench with a smile on his face. That should count for something. Plus, when he was called into action, he made a beautiful save (against Siena). He trains every day, just as hard as everyone else, and he could have been called into action at any time (knock on wood, throw salt, light a candle to appease the calcio gods). He is an Inter youth product and has never wavered in his loyalty, never complained about being third-string. Plus, he just extended his contract for another year.

Overall Grade: 6, he never complains


DEFENSE:

Ivan Cordoba

Cordoba is our fastest defender and our principal defense against teams countering us to death ala Juventus. That being said, he was in the Mourinho doghouse for a while after what I am going to call: The Atalanta Affair. He was back in relatively good graces after what I am going to call: The Rivas Debacle. He a solid defender but his good speed gives him that extra oomph.

Thank you Cordoba!

Who knew someone so short could win so many headers! For all the trouble we had in defense this last season, Cordoba was our most consistent central defender. He played 37 games for us this season, more than any other central defender, and has been the anchor in our back line. Plus, who could forget that fabulous stoppage time goal against Reggina? He had a fine season, despite Atalanta. I mean, everyone has a bad day now and then. At least he didn't let his ruin his whole season.

Overall Grade: 6, 6.5

Maxwell

Maxwell had an up and down season which led to his being replaced by Santon. His rise this season came from very good games early in the campaign. But as games accumulated it became apparent that Maxwell was being figured out. After The Atalanta Affair he was benched in favor of Santon and Chivu for almost the rest of the season.

Poor Maxi. He began the season strongly, and for the most part, the fans consistently rated him at least 6.5. He even got that beautiful goal against Chievo. And then Atalanta happened. Mou put him in the dog house and his performances became inconsistent. He had a couple more passable games, but he was just as likely to loose his marbles as not. He went forward well, but his clearances became disastrous and he was prone to giving the ball away right in front of our own goal. I think he personally set up at least two goals for the opposing team in the last few games he played. Still, I like him. I would be sad to see him go this summer - that is, so long as he does not mind providing depth instead of starting every game. I dont know if he is willing to take a less active role, though. In fact, I would have given him a slightly higher score if it wasn't for his mid-season winging. I dont know if he will make it through the summer but the club has reportedly already turned down two offers for him (one from Barca, the other from Juve).

Overall Grade: 5.5, 5

Maicon

Maicon was a good player last season. This season he was bordering on greatness. He defended, he attacked, he scored, he assisted and he even took some corner kicks. He, like Julio Cesar, is in the conversation for best player at his position. The injury late in the year was particularly worrying and the increase in goals allowed at the end of the season was a result of his absence.

Maicon, the heart of Inter

Maicon is phenomenal. There is nothing I dont like about him. He was great and anyone who says otherwise is a fool. He seems to be committed to the club (100%) and always has a smile on his face. As Susana Werner said in the SkySport special about this last Scudetto, Maicon is the heart of the team. I would like him to stay forever (no matter what his obnoxious agent has to say about it). I cannot think of a single bad thing to say about him.

Overall Grade: 8, 9

Nico Burdisso

Burdisso is a hard player to figure out. I don’t think I have seen him play, what I think, is a good game. He made poor choices tackling. He made poor decisions reacting to the attackers playing in front of him. His clearances from the defense are rarely on target. His lowlights can be summarized in that last game against Cagliari. But, and this is the part that I can’t figure out, other teams are willing to pay a transfer fee to get him. If only the little bugger would consent to leave. The quicker, the better.

One word: Anorthosis. Still, he is so earnest and, in the beginning of the season, he was there for the team when Samuel was still injured. He made 29 appearances for us this season, and if it wasn't for him, we would have seen a whole lot more of Cambiasso in defense. I want to like him - I want him to do well for us - but I just dont think he can. Anyone who watched either the Atalanta game or the Anorthosis away game will agree. I think he may be on his way out this summer (of course, we said that last summer too), and I wish him well. His heart is in the right place but his head and his feet, sadly, are not. If it weren't for his enthusiasm, he would be my worst player of the year.

Overall Grade: 5, 4.5 (cause he is not quite the worst)

Marco Materazzi

Last season I thought that Marco looked old, but serviceable. This season I thought that he looked old. He had an injury plagued year, but the few games that he played in I thought he didn’t play particularly well – Champions League games included. There was one brilliant exception – in the first Juventus game, he marked Amauri off the pitch.

Marco bleeds black and blue

I love Marco. I know he is not the player he was before he got injured, but I dont care. He bleeds black and blue (as evidenced by his recent 2-year contract renewal), and I appreciate that. I think the tries his very best every single time he takes the pitch, it is just that is best is not as good as it once was. Still, it is better than either Nico or Rivas. True, he has had an injury prone season, and has only played a few games, but hey, with that goal against Anorthosis, he equaled Ibra's UCL scoring record this season. Plus, he played 15 minutes with a broken cheekbone against Werder Bremen! I am glad the club is giving him the opportunity to finish his career with the club. Tutti Pazzi per Materazzi!

Overall Grade: 5.5 6


Nelson Rivas

I was an advocate of Rivas getting more playing time in order to figure out if he can play. I no longer advocate his being on the team anymore, thanks to the double nightmare of Champions League vs ManUre and Coppa vs Sampdoria. Ugh.

Arrivaderci, Nelson. We tried, you played even though you were injured, it was a disaster. Because I am nice, though, I will remind everyone that he did actually have one great game: Bologna v Inter. I have included the highlights here to prove it. One game does not undue all the mental anguish and trauma he has caused me this season, though. I am sorry, but it is clearly time for him to move on. He may well be my pick for worst player of the season.

Overall Grade: 5, 3

Bologna v Inter (1-2):

Walter Samuel

Samuel, in my opinion, was our best central defender. His effectiveness helped no doubt by the “I’m going to rip your head off” look that he has when he’s in a good mood. Samuel made my favorite “tackle” of the year when he clocked CRonaldo upside the head. He’s a destroyer of epic proportions. The bad news? He’s 31.

I dont care how old he is, he is a stone-cold fox. I agree with MAD, Samuel was the best this season. His only fault is that he is a little fouly sometimes. I was a little nervous for him as it took so long for him to come back from injury, but he came back better than ever. He even got a goal! It wasn't all moonbeams and roses, he stumbled a bit against Cagliari (at home) and Napoli (away), but also had moments of pure brilliance. He was stupendous in the Juve home game and against Lazio (away). I dont know if he can start every game next season (unless Zanetti shares some of whatever elixir he has been taking), but I think he still brings a lot to the table.

Overall Grade: 7, 8

Christian Chivu

If this review was done during January, his grade would be slightly better than Burdisso. But this last half of the season saw Chivu be both versatile and effective. He played central defense and left fullback well. I think that next year he’s going to play a big part in the defense… is he can stay healthy. Of our most effective central defenders (Cordoba and Samuel), he’s the youngest at 29.

Chivu is another player that is just such a Muppet, you have to love him. In fact, I think my rating of him may be ever so slightly influenced by the affection I feel for him as a person. Not that he doesn't play well: He is versatile, playing effectively as a central defender or a fullback. In a pinch, he can even play in the midfield. Unfortunately, he can be a little fragile. When healthy, though, he plays well and is particularly good at clearing the ball (in comparison to Nico and Maxi, at least). He did have a problem with tackling this season, and picked up the most yellows of all our defenders (7). Also, he struggled a bit the first half of the season (which I think was largely due to injury), but managed to find his form in the spring.

Overall Grade: 6.5, 7 - cause he is such a cutie

Davide Santon

Since his debut against Roma, Santon has hardly put a foot wrong. I had read that he wasn’t used for a few games at the end of the season because of bad form, but I don’t believe it. I think it was an effort by Mourinho to make sure Santon didn’t get a big head. Santon has shown to be the anti-Burdisso. He is almost frighteningly calm under pressure and seems to make good decisions. He can play on the left or the right. He can also go forward with skill – I heard one play by play guy refer to him as elegant. He doesn’t have the grit of Bergomi, but “elegant” is what people say about Facchetti.

Santon v becks

I think it is just too darn soon to say Santon is the next anything. He had a little problem earlier in the season with wine and women, and started to slack in training. I think that is why Mou kept him on the bent. That, and to show that not even his protege was immune to being benched. That said, he is pretty darn good. Mou threw him in the deep end and darned if he didn't swim like a fish. There was a dip in form when he went back to the right - his positioning went all to hell and he was having trouble marking - but he managed to work it out. He is playing for the Azzurri now, and I couldn't be happier for him. The important thing now is to take it slowly so that he doesn't burn out or get too big for his britches. I will say this: he is promising and I look forward to watching him play for Inter for many years to come.

Overall Grade: 6.5, 7 - it would have been higher if not for the tragic eyebrow lines

Andrea Mei

Despite being on the first team list, this kid did not get a single minute of field time. He doesn't get a score. Hopefully he will make an appearance at one of these summer friendlies so we can scope him out.


Wow. That was a lot. Now you can all see why I chose to break it up. Look for midfielders tomorrow (or the next day), which will include Zanetti. Until then...

FORZA INTER

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