Soon after Manchester City confirmed the capture of Bernardo Silva from Monaco for a big £43.6 million, Manchester United fans were slightly shocked to learn that they had edged close to acquiring a summer target of their own. It wasn’t James Rodriguez or the Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, but someone slightly lesser known than the duo – a man who has previously drawn just as strong links as either of the two.
Ivan Perisic isn’t obviously a name that would stand out from a bunch of targets that include the aforementioned duo and a host of others. Sky Sports’ Kaveh Solhekol reported that the fee in discussion for the Croatian is around £36 million, weeks after sources in Italy had quoted a much exalted fee of around £45 million. Jose Mourinho is said to be a long-term admirer of the Inter Milan star and reports are also suggestive of the fact that he has been after the winger for quite a while now, with Chelsea also interested and the Nerazzurri demanding an exorbitant fee for the 28-year-old.
Many have expressed disillusionment, while others have taken the news with a pinch of salt. But the fact of the matter has to be the fee for the purported transfer and not the ability of a very talented player.
Inter’s Chinese owners would certainly be aware of Chelsea’s interest and would not be reluctant to increase their demanding price for Perisic. And that is very likely to take the fee in question to a level that wouldn’t suit the capability of a player whose talent is unquestionable, but not upto the standards of a £50 million fee.
If there’s anything that makes Perisic fall under the bracket of being a ‘Mourinho-type’ player, then it’s his work-ethic. Working in chicken farms as kid in the Croatian coastal city of Omis has carved into Perisic the tendency to work hard and he seems to have learnt lessons from helping his father chase down chickens in that very farm. His hard-working approach to the game seems to prove that he has taken a leaf out of that old book of his.
Perisic knows how to run all day long, defend and get stuck in while always looking to break on the counter. And in his own words, when he sits on the bench, he feels like he is dying. He’s got that hunger and desire to play football and his skill-set has, over the years, allowed him to make a name for himself in Belgium, Germany and Italy.
A fruitless three year stint at French club Sochaux saw him spend a loan spell at Club Brugge, where he became the Jupiler League’s highest goal-getter and the Footballer of the Year. Perisic scored 16 times and got eight assists that season, a tally that was enough to earn himself a move to Jurgen Klopp’s flourishing Borussia Dortmund.
As the BVB marched towards the Bundesliga title in the 2011-12 campaign, Perisic scored seven times and racked up three assists in his first season, but later fell out with Klopp after having openly complained to the press about a lack of game time. Days later, Klopp himself openly reprimanded the Croatian for not whining about lack of game time and shutting up his mouth. He said: “Public whining belongs to kindergarten, not to the world of adults. If he doesn’t play, a football professional should shut his mouth, work hard and make the coach select him – not complain about it to the reporters.”
After his stint at Dortmund, Perisic learnt his lessons well and became a more professional footballer than he ever was. He began working harder than he previously did and established himself as a key player for the Croatian national team. The criticism about him not being the kind of player to track back and defend have emanated to nothingness.
Before joining Inter, Perisic enjoyed a two-year stint at the Volkswagen Arena with Wolfsburg, where he began to be used in a variety of positions by manager Dieter Hecking. Apart from the left-wing, Perisic played as a second striker and also as a right-winger. Scoring a total 18 goals and assisting 16 times over the two-year period.
Since joining the Nerazzurri in 2015, Perisic has become one of those players in the side who can grab games by the scruff of their neck and win it for the side. And he’s got this knack for scoring scorchers and cracking goals from outside the box, with his tendency to drift in from either flanks always drawing comparisons with Arjen Robben. And being an ambidextrous winger makes him a real threat too.
He has made one dribble per game this season, but it’s his directness and verticality that separates him from others. He runs into spaces on the break very well and acts as a real outlet in wide areas, if anyone can pick him out from deeper areas. He has done that a lot at Inter, threatening the opposition on the counter-attack. The presence of a ball-playing defender, who can pick him out on the break, can turn him into an all the more dangerous player.
And he likes to perform in big games, be it in vital games in the FIFA World Cup or in all-important derby games. Most would remember his performances in Euro 2016 and against AC Milan in both the Derby della Madonnina clashes of the campaign.
Apart from knowing how to take players on and beat them, Perisic makes good use of his height. He is an aerially proficient player, who has won 1.6 aerial duels this season. And throughout his career, he has won more than 1.0 aerial duel per game, which is very good for a Premier League player. Especially for a Jose Mourinho player.
With Wayne Rooney likely to move out and Mourinho looking to increase the depth of the squad, adding a reliable player to the ranks would do no harm. Perisic has a lot of flair on the ball and off it and would fit into the system that Mourinho has always adhered to. And his versatility and ability to use both feet to an equal effect would make him a useful player, as the season wears on.
United do have the likes of Anthony Martial, Jesse Lingard, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Marcus Rashford in the pecking order, but Mourinho’s liking for players who fit into his prefered system can well make Perisic a regular starter. That though, doesn’t mean that he deserves a £45 million fee, especially when he is 28.
Martial arrived for a similar fee (albeit £5 million more) when he was 19 and City have signed Bernardo for an equivalent price when the Portuguese starlet is still 22. There would have been little doubts about the fee if Perisic was, say 24 or 25, but it’s probably a certain amount of trust in his type of player that could make Mourinho shell out extra money on the Croatian.
Inter would love to get as much yield as possible, with a clear out likely to transpire at the San Siro this summer. And as much they’d hate to part ways with a player who can win games for a side at will, they can tide over the transition with the money.