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Giancarlo Rinaldi Q&A: All About Alvarez

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I asked Italian football expert Giancarlo Rinaldi to run the rule over new signing Ricardo Gabriel Alvarez, to give him his full name, while also giving us an insight into what we might expect from the Argentine star following his move from Inter. Giancarlo is the author of the book 20 Great Italian Games, as well as a regular Football Italia contributor and avid Calcio watcher.

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Claudio Villa

What are Alvarez’s strongest attributes?

Giancarlo: I’d say his directness and dribbling were his greatest strengths. He likes to take players on and can spread panic through most defences with that approach.

Does he have any major weaknesses? Which parts of his game must he improve upon?

Giancarlo: The biggest failing I have seen when watching him play is that he can drift out of games. If he could improve his focus for the full 90 minutes I reckon he could have an even bigger impact.

How important has he been to Inter over the last three years? Were you surprised they let him go?

Giancarlo: I think it would be fair to say he had his ups and downs at Inter. He could be a match-winner on occasions, but at other times failed to make a major contribution. I think the Nerazzurri are keen to start a new era, so I wasn’t entirely surprised to see him move on although I still think he had more to offer the club.

Do you believe Alvarez has the capabilities to adapt to English football?

Giancarlo: I have to admit I have my reservations about that. He will enjoy a bit more space and less attention to defensive duties but he might find the physical demands a little tougher. However, if he gets the attitude right there is little doubt he has the skills to do well in England.

We hear that he can perform various attacking roles for the team. What’s his best position in your opinion?

Giancarlo: I like him best playing behind at least one out-and-out striker. Inter used him in midfield at times, but I always felt he could give more a little further forward and, ideally, with a couple of front-men clearing a path for him to run through on goal or deliver assists to.

Should he score more frequently than he has done in Italy? His Serie A record with Inter works out at about one goal every six-and-a-half games.

Giancarlo: There have been a few signs of improvement in that regard, but I don’t think he is ever going to be a truly prolific goalscorer from his position. He could deliver a bit more in front of goal - I reckon that if he could hit double figures in a league season it would be about the absolute ceiling of his capabilities.

Will he be a big miss at Inter this season following his departure?

Giancarlo: I think Inter have decided to pursue other options and I can’t imagine many will miss him a great deal. However, if the odd game is going against them, then they might look back and wish they had him on the bench to try to turn things in their favour.

The loan deal is reportedly costing the club £800,000, with an option to buy for a further £8.5m at the end of the campaign. Does that represent good value in your eyes?

Giancarlo: It is probably a bit of a gamble on a player who has never quite delivered on the potential he has shown. Having said that, if he can start to produce the goods with any level of consistency then it could be something of a steal. At least the loan deal allows the club to try before they buy.

Overall, what do you feel he can bring to Sunderland this season?

Giancarlo: I know Sunderland fans have had some tough times recently and I’m not sure Alvarez is the man to turn the team around single-handedly. But if they have got the rest of the team right he could definitely be a very exciting addition to the side. In full flow and when running at opposition defenders he is a real joy to watch and a truly entertaining player. At the very least he will surely produce a few moments of skill to brighten up a grey Saturday afternoon.

You can follow Giancarlo Rinaldi on Twitter @ginkers, read his blog on Tumblr and purchase his fantastic book 20 Great Italian Games via Amazon.