il Potenziale

by guest-blogger Fox Mulder


According to the Sunday Mirror yesterday, one Jermaine Jenas has begun taking Italian lessons to prepare for a move to Inter Milan in the Summer. The papers really don't want to let this one lie and for anyone who has witnessed the man himself this season it is nothing short of baffling. 

Look at the two parties - Inter Milan are one of the most decorated teams in Italian football and have won Serie A the last three seasons on the spin. Jermaine Jenas has a Carling Cup medal and won the Soccer AM crossbar challenge.

Reading this story again I considered several options:

1. This whole story is one of those big media 'in-jokes' perpetuated by cheeky Arsenal and Chelsea supporting journalists. The scoundrels.

2. It's true and Jose Mourinho is such a genius he can see something in the player that a good majority of Spurs fans can not.

3. It's true and Jose Mourinho's malevolent ego has become so powerful that it has seized control of his conscious mind and is seeking to destroy him.

4. The story is completely made up - just putting it out there guys...

The man they call JJ has polarised more opinions at White Hart Lane than I've had false dawns and I don't intend to defend or attack him here. Sometimes he's great and sometimes he's awful, a couple of screamers against Arsenal prolonging the fading hope that there is a world class player in that slim, chiselled frame just bursting to get out. In fact, much like a few of our players (Hudd, Pav, Crouch) you can even be found arguing with yourself on a game by game and sometimes minute by minute basis. "He's got a good engine, but he's too soft. He can beat players in the midfield, but he's a confidence player. He's good at set pieces. he's shit at set pieces. This game needs Jenas. For God's sake sub him off." He's like Yin and Yang, it is in his essence to be simultaenously both shite and brilliant, caught in a delicate and timeless footballing paradox. By the time I've finished the 10 minute, post-match walk to my car I'm practically a quivering, schitzophrenic wreck.

But let's say he packed his designer luggage and headed for Milan. How would our boy fair in a city that is known for fashion, food and football? What impact would he have on fans who have seen their midfield strings pulled by some of the true greats of the game?

The last English midfielder that wore the nerazzuri shirt was Paul Ince, and he is till fondly remembered in Inter folklore. After a slow start, his tough tackling, whole hearted displays coupled with a good range of passing a vicious shot were a revelation at the San Siro. His sheer enthusiasm and toughness made him exactly what the Inter fans expected when they signed an English midfield general. 

So far not so good then for JJ.

But of course there already is an English midfielder playing in Milan. One who is known more for his creativity than his brutality. He's not got the legs anymore but he can put a set piece where it's meant to be. And Italians bloody love a set piece. Mr Beckham is a world star playing for Inter's fiercest rivals. Jenas would be only the 2nd Englishman currently playing in Italy, in the same city and the same stadium no less. Comparisons would instantly be drawn and I'm struggling to remember many goals scored from an expertly delivered Jenas dead ball.

2-0 to the doubters then.

However, the Italian league is less physical, more tactical and players get a lot more time on the ball. Compared to many opponents in Serie A, Jenas would probably look like he has the work rate of Wayne Rooney. He's also actually pretty bright. Word from the Lodge is that he's one of, if not THE most intellectual of our current flock. Any time there is an education initiative he's front of the queue. That's not saying much though as he's probably the only one that can even spell queue, or his name for that matter.

I for one think more English players should get out there and play abroad. We have the so-called best league in the world but foreign clubs rarely try to buy our English players. He is still young enough to develop his game to perhaps even make a decent shout for England at Euro 2012. He could be an absolute revelation and having Mourinho there would be a massive advantage for him.

He may finally find fans that really love him. He may even get his first ever proper chant - less hilarious things rhyme with Jenas in Italian than they do in English.

Love or loathe him, I'd say it's pretty universally accepted that Jermaine is not going to push on a level at Spurs, and we won't up our level with him in the team.

If he does move then I wish him the best of luck. He may not have set our world alight but he's played under about 50 managers, never moaned to the press to force a transfer and yes, he did score some blinders against the goons. 

Europeans love to give their players little nicknames. In Italy Jenas would be il potenziale - the potential. If he joins Inter this Summer I'd love to see him finally realise it.