Éver Banega would be the first to admit he has struggled at times to adapt to life in Serie A since joining Inter from La Liga side Sevilla last summer. He has played well in fits and starts, showing odd flashes of brilliance such as his stunning long-range strike against Lazio back in December. However, moments like that have been the exception rather than the norm so far.
It must be said, frequent changes to the team’s formation has hardly helped Banega in his pursuit of consistency. Firstly, Frank De Boer thought it best to deploy him as a deep-lying midfielder where, due to the tactical demands of Serie A, he was always likely to endure difficulties – which he did.
Portuguese international João Mário then found his form and Banega became a bit-part player, which led to suggestions he could make a €25 million switch to Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quanjian in January. On the contrary, the club hierarchy were always determined that he would be given time to prove his worth to Inter.
Despite a significant upturn in results since Stefano Pioli’s arrival, the former Boca Juniors man had still been unable to reach his own peak performance levels.
In saying that, clever play in the build-up to Gabigol’s winner against Bologna, as well as scoring a goal in last week’s 5-1 thrashing of Cagliari, had led to suggestions the Argentine was finally starting to find his feet in Italy.
Yesterday’s 7-1 demolition job of Atalanta in San Siro served to confirm this. A hat-trick, in addition to two assists, earned him Man of the Match with a perfect 10.0 rating from both SempreInter.com and WhoScored.com.
Banega was instrumental in everything that was good about Inter. He pressed the ball high up the pitch, looked determined to create goalscoring chances at every opportunity, and combined excellently throughout the match with the likes of Mauro Icardi, Antonio Candreva and Ivan Perišić.
Should he continue in his current vein of form, the diminutive playmaker might just be the one who propels Inter into the third and final Champions League spot.