Inter Milan will not allow uncertainty over the future of Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder to distract them from their challenge for the Serie A title.
Lying only four points behind leaders and titleholders Juventus, Inter visit Lazio at the weekend with the Sneijder row bubbling uncomfortably close to the surface and the media rife with speculation about a move in January.
Sneijder was left out of the squad for last week’s match at home to Napoli, where a 2-1 win lifted Inter into second place.
Inter said he was injured but the Dutchman’s wife Yolanthe Cabau angered the club by using Twitter to claim that her husband was “just fine.”
On Wednesday, Inter president Massimo Moratti brushed aside suggestions that the Sneijder situation could affect the team and their strategy during the January transfer window.
“The transfer market does not depend on Sneijder. Nothing depends on him,” Moratti told reporters at an event organized by tire manufacturers Pirelli.
“I think more than anything else what the market depends on will be the economy of the club, so we will evaluate that first.”
The row began when Inter asked Sneijder to extend his contract from 2015 to 2016 for the same overall payment, a move criticized by the world players’ union FIFPro.
“In other words, to work a year longer without receiving any salary for it. Sneijder refused and since then, coach Andrea Stramaccioni has kept the playmaker outside the match squad,” FIFPro said in a statement.
FIFPro secretary-general Theo van Seggelen added: “Clubs say that players must respect contracts, but why should that not apply in reverse?
“It is not as if Sneijder has taken a gun to the head of the board of Inter to force them to submit that contract. The club offered it to him with their full understanding.”
Moratti preferred to lavish praise on forward Antonio Cassano, signed from arch-rivals AC Milan during the close season.
“He’s an artist, and when there’s an artist at work anything is possible,” said Moratti.
“What pleases me, in addition to what he does on the field, is that he seems well integrated, which is good for both us and him.”
He added that the team had so far surpassed expectations.
“We began in a situation in which everything was new, from the players to the coach,” he said.
“Given the high percentage of new elements, we’ve done better than I thought we would. I’d say we’re doing what is within our possibilities. We’ll have to see at the end whether they are superior to those of the other teams.”
Inter have 34 points from 16 games, four more than fourth-placed Lazio, ahead of a weekend which is likely to prove a stern test of their credentials.
While Stramaccioni’s team have a tough match ahead of them, their two nearest rivals Juventus and Napoli both have what appear to be straightforward home matches.
Juventus, who have won 12 of their 16 games so far, host midtable Atalanta and Napoli, who are one point behind Inter in third, are at home to a Bologna side stuck in the lower half of the table.
AC Milan, who have jumped to seventh after winning their last three games, should be able to continue their climb as they host relegation-threatened Pescara.