The Slovenian is back in the starting line-up in Fiorentina-Inter to repeat last season’s triumph. For the 38-year-old from Ljubljana, expiring in June, there is also a new contract at stake as deputy Onana
An evening starring. Perhaps one of the last, considering the uncertainty that still surrounds the future, but for this (perhaps) even more special. On Tuesday Samir Handanovic will be back on the pitch from the first minute to play for a final of the Coppa Italia with a particular flavour, in some ways a bit nostalgic. Because the Slovenian could return to lifting a trophy as a starter after having experienced the last one won in January (the Italian Super Cup) as a spectator. Because the Italian Cup, at least for two years now, has become a sort of comfort zone in which the Slovenian has been able to exalt himself by showing off great performances, starting with the three consecutive clean sheets of the last edition between the quarterfinals and the semifinals against Roma and Milan before of the final won against Juventus. But also because there is always that contract renewal at stake which could prolong the Nerazzurri marriage that began eleven years ago.
The situation for Handanovic has changed radically after a handful of games at the start of the season, those that marked the handover with Onana in perhaps shorter times than he himself would have imagined. Still, the Slovenian had the ability to adapt and immediately immerse himself in the new role assigned to him by the coach. A follow-on role, after that of undisputed owner played for ten years (of which three and a half as captain), but without batting an eyelid and above all with the ability to be ready when the need arose. The last month, thanks to an Inter capable of reaching the bottom of all competitions, proved to be decisive in regaining confidence with the pitch and proving that they can still be up to it, which Handa did in the successes against Empoli and Verona (both obtained goalless). Barring a few flaws in the last outing, the victorious one against Sassuolo (4-2), the Slovenian gave enough guarantees to deserve a starting shirt in Tuesday’s match against Fiorentina, one of those that are worth the pin on his chest.
Then there is the Slovenian’s desire to leave his mark in a tournament that this year has only “breathed” for 97′ due to an injury (the muscle injury which in January forced him to miss the round of 16 and quarterfinals against Parma and Atalanta) and the disqualification following the red card received in the first semi-final against Juventus. That cup that traditionally represents the best (if not the only) showcase for those who play the role of second goalkeeper, the same in which Handa has collected the highest number of appearances in the two previous seasons (8) while still boasting the “grades” of number one and captain, awaits him for the decisive act. After all, the Slovenian made his mark in the Italian Cup for ten years, missing only one edition (in the ’14/’15 season), and collecting a total of 21 appearances and a triumph.
Future at stake
Tuesday’s could be Handa’s fifth personal trophy since he’s been in Milan (not counting the most important one, the sixth up for grabs in Istanbul), but the stakes are higher. Because at the age of 39, the Slovenian is playing for another season’s stay, obviously at smaller figures than the current ones. The hypothesis is that of a renewal at 1.5 million (compared to 2.5 today), but the agreement between the parties has not yet been reached and Tuesday’s final is an important test.
May 23, 2023 (change May 23, 2023 | 10:11 am)
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