Christian Eriksen’s trophy-winning dream at Inter Milan has turned into a nightmare
Christian Eriksen wasn’t afraid of burning a few bridges when he left Tottenham Hotspur and signed for Inter Milan back in January.
‘There’s a big chance of winning a trophy here… or a bigger chance than where I was of course,’ the Dane said shortly after his £16.9million move.
‘The last time I won something was at Ajax so it’s many years ago.’
Trouble is, comments like these can come back to haunt you.
It isn’t that Tottenham have won or necessarily will win that long-anticipated piece of silverware, even with Gareth Bale’s return, but that Eriksen’s stock has fallen a long way in the last nine months.
Quite frankly, his time at the San Siro has been a disaster and his fortunes don’t look likely to improve anytime soon.
This week’s arrival of Arturo Vidal from Barcelona further reduces Eriksen’s chances of getting a run in Antonio Conte’s Inter midfield.
Worse still, it transpires that Vidal was the player Conte actually wanted to sign in January rather than Eriksen.
And worse still, Inter would be more than happy to offload Eriksen before the transfer window closes on October 5 with reports in Italy suggesting he has been offered to Premier League clubs but to little interest.
While Spurs fans may be tempted to indulge in a little schadenfreude, it’s worth remembering not all of this is Eriksen’s fault.
At an immediate disadvantage by not being the signing Conte wanted when he first arrived, any hopes of getting some rhythm in his game were hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
When Serie A and wider Italy went into lockdown, Eriksen had yet to find a house for his young family and at one point considered asking Romelu Lukaku or Ashley Young if he could kip on their sofa.
In the end, with his city centre hotel closed, Eriksen was billeted in accommodation on Inter’s training complex but while his team-mates had home gyms to maintain fitness levels, he was left jogging around a basement car park as technically he couldn’t go outside.
‘I was running around the car park basement and calculated I can run 35 metres, then have to take a turn and run 35 metres back,’ he said.
‘[When I tried to go to the supermarket], police stopped me and in my rather bad Italian I had to explain what I was doing, where I was going and why I was out of the house.’
The fact Conte wanted Vidal over Eriksen in the January window had become abundantly clear by his being unable to hold down a place in the team.
Eriksen could be forgiven for thinking he’s been conned. Inter’s hierarchy pulled out all the stops to lure him over but Conte only had one conversation with him before the move and that has proved to be more significant.
Since the beginning of February, Eriksen has started just eight of Inter’s 17 league fixtures and one in the Italian Cup.
And in the Europa League, he was played from the start of Inter’s round of 32 games against Bulgarians Ludogorets.
But when it came to the latter stages – Getafe in the last 16, Bayer Leverkusen in the quarter-finals and Shakhtar Donetsk in the semis – Eriksen played only a bit-part role off the bench.
In the final against Sevilla, with Inter trailing 3-2, he was chucked on alongside Alexis Sanchez and Victor Moses with just 12 minutes to salvage the situation.
Four goals and three assists from 17 games isn’t quite the return one of the world’s foremost attacking midfielders would have hoped for.
The signs aren’t promising for the current season either. Eriksen scored twice in a friendly win against Pisa on Saturday but then Vidal’s arrival was announced on Monday and there are no prizes for guessing who is likely to start their season opener against Fiorentina this weekend.
Vidal may be, at 33, five years older than Eriksen, but the Chilean is favoured by Conte to perform the box-to-box role he is a specialist at.
There is also the factor of lingering affection from their time working together at Juventus, where Vidal won three consecutive Serie A title under Conte’s management.
Conte, who has demanded more control over transfer dealings, knows from experience that Vidal can be trusted to play the kind of football he wants from his Inter team.
He is reunited with Conte after they won three Serie A title together at Juventus
Eriksen said back in June that Italy had yet to see his true ability but it’s tempting to wonder if it ever will.
Pushed down the pecking order, he could very easily lose another season when he should be in his pomp.
Further complicating matters is that Eriksen was a statement signing for Inter back in January and so they’ll want to recoup all of their money if they move him on. But that would be to assume the interest is there.
So Eriksen could be left in limbo as Inter’s new season gets underway. Not playing, unable to move and wondering how the nightmare ends.