Nearly three weeks before the end of the transfer window, it looks like Inter Milan are done and dusted, officially announcing on Wednesday they were signing Atalanta prospect Roberto Gagliardini for €28 million, bonuses included.
What are fans to make of this move? On one hand, they see a headline-grabbing 22-year-old who is second in Gazzetta's player ratings chart, thrives when making runs into the box and was hotly pursued by Juventus.
On the other, however, they're buying into an inexperienced talent who made his Serie A debut in May, and has only started eight games this season.
A quick look Gagliardini's stats show him providing two assists in Serie A action so far, but also contributing 1.5 tackles and as many interceptions a game. Those categories are all led by players who pretty much hit the four mark. His 0.6 key passes per match pale in comparison to Ever Banega's 2.9, Marcelo Brozovic's 2.5 and Antonio Candreva's 2.1, all top 10 figures for Serie A.
From this perspective, Gagliardini is not an immediate upgrade. Is he really more of a defensive force than Geoffrey Kondogbia, a bigger attacking threat than Brozovic or a better passer than Joao Mario? Chances are, the Atalanta product is simply not a threat to any of the current starters, nor does he satisfy an immediate need at centre-back or full-back.
Is this bad news, or proof of incompetence? Not necessarily. It could be evidence Inter and coach Stefano Pioli are going to stick with €32m investment Kondogbia a while longer (he's played regularly so far), and that they are hoping to mould Gagliardini in the long term both as a young Italian and a replacement for the ambitious Brozovic.
From that perspective, Inter simply had to pay big bucks to grab the latest sensation. Gripes about the price would be quelled by Juventus' paying €21m (bonuses included) for the equally inexperienced Mattia Caldara, who also performs in a less impactful role.
The optimist will hope Inter are already thinking of next year, hoping to snag Gonzalo Rodriguez once his deal expires and coax consistency out of Gabigol. The cynic, however, has good reason to believe this is a nouveau riche club throwing money at a problem, and only planning for summer because of UEFA's financial fair play.
A quick look at the gossip pages brings up a spooky connection: Inter's recruitment tends to focus on nabbing Juventus targets. Banega, Gabigol, Gabriel Jesus, Cristian Ansaldi and Gagliardini himself were all pursued by the Bianconeri before opting for Inter (or Manchester City, in Jesus' case). Are the Nerazzurri simply going for players because Juventus like them, or to compete with them. Or is this simply a coincidence?
For some, stealing players of this ilk under the Old Lady's nose is a sign of progress, especially after some detected foul play in Inter's inability to sign Domenico Berardi, who was believed to have been promised to Juventus. But simply besting the Bianconeri in the window isn't enough: neither Gabigol nor Banega has fit in so far, and Juventus have made a habit out of unearthing gems like Paul Pogba and Andrea Barzagli for nothing.
When the Old Lady did splash out €30m two summers ago, it was for a certain Paulo Dybala -- who had at least strutted his stuff for a whole season -- and he is now being linked to a €90 move to Real Madrid. Someone like Gagliardini would have to turn into AC Milan's Giacomo Bonaventura to generate a profit, and that's hardly a doddle.
Then again, the fact that Gagliardini is represented by Giuseppe Riso could also be a positive: one of general manager Adriano Galliani's favourites, Riso also represents fellow Juventus targets Sime Vrsaljko and Stefano Sensi. Are the Nerazzurri finally wisening up to the agent market? In that light, teaming up with Kia Joorabchian might not be such a bad idea after all.
Moreover, after a summer in which talismans like Mauro Icardi and Brozovic were courted by Juventus and Napoli, it is refreshing to see Inter refuse to let their opponents steal their crown jewels, Gonzalo Higuain and Miralem Pjanic ditching the also-rans for the five-time Serie A champions.
What certainties does this leave us with? In truth, not a lot. Nobody can truly tell whether a 22-year-old will be a hit, especially at his first big club. One thing is certain though: Inter are gambling heavily on his success, and haven't exactly won a lot of bets of late.