Internazionale winger Ivan Perišić was reported to be among José Mourinho’s top transfer targets for much of the Portuguese manager’s time in charge of Manchester United.
The fact United never signed the Croatian attacker was believed to be a major cause of friction between Mourinho and the club’s hierarchy, and Perišić’s performances at last summer’s World Cup appeared to vindicate the former Chelsea and Real Madrid boss’ viewpoint.
But, at 30, Perišić has looked a far cry from the player who tore through defences for Croatia en route to a runners-up spot in Russia less than a year ago. Now being linked with Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, the Premier League clubs would be well served to turn their attention elsewhere.
Mourinho viewed Perišić as the answer to the lack of attacking width that is still a problem for United. The Inter winger was seen as the kind of conventional wide man who would– unlike their other options in the position who are more comfortable centrally and prefer to cut inside – look for the byline and reliably deliver crosses.
So convinced of Perišić’s virtues was Mourinho that the Portuguese was reportedly ready to allow the talented Anthony Martial, seven years Perišić’s junior, to be used in part exchange with the Italian club.
Last summer, Perišič looked worthy of such high billing on Croatia’s run to the World Cup final. Playing on the left flank – although his two-footedness means he’s equally able to play on the right – his directness, stamina and end product made him one of the standout players of the tournament in Russia.
But he has looked a pale imitation of that player in Serie A this season.
After back-to-back campaigns in which he delivered 11 league goals – a return he has only once bettered in his career, having netted 22 in his final season with Club Brugge in 2010/11 – Perišić has only found the net five times this term.
His rate of assists has dropped, too.
Perišić’s inconsistency this season has made him a figure of derision among Inter fans, most of whom, it seems, would be more than happy for the club to receive a Premier League-sized transfer fee for the former Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg player.
This dip in form could ultimately prove to be a blip, but, at 30 and playing in a position which demands speed and athleticism, it seems unlikely he will recapture his peak.
Considering that his reputation means he would not come cheap – United were supposedly quoted around £50million for him just a year ago – Spurs and Arsenal should focus their recruitment efforts on other options.