‘Keeps as in his glory years at Ajax’
Where André Onana left Ajax last summer after much turmoil, the goalkeeper at Internazionale is now brushing up his reputation in a big way. The 27-year-old goalkeeper will play with Inter tonight in the semi-finals of the Champions League against city rival AC Milan.
He was once so beloved by Ajax fans. The goalie was even allowed to join the best goalkeepers in the world during the famous Champions League campaign in 2019, the Amsterdammers won against Real Madrid and Juventus, but were eliminated in semifinals against Tottenham Hotspur.
Then At Ajax, Onana ran into a doping suspension and refused to renew his contract – mainly for financial reasons. Amsterdam saw Onana leave sooner rather than later. And so the Cameroonian did. He chose Italian side Inter, where he is now posted as a regular under crossbar.
“Onana started as second goalkeeper,” explained Willem Haak, journalist who follows Italian soccer closely. Samir Handanovic (38) was first goalkeeper. “But he made several mistakes that put Onana in the picture. First only in the Champions League and later also in the league.”
Starting in October, the former Ajax player kept almost every game. “And he makes an incredibly solid impression,” Haak asserted. “It’s a reliable goalkeeper who can hardly be caught out on mistakes this season.”
David Endt, former Ajax team manager and Inter follower from 1964, also sees the rise. “Onana has taken excellent advantage of Handanovic’s down period. He has great reflexes and – what you still sometimes saw at Ajax – he is less druisty.”
If he continues like this he will join a line with Júlio César, Francesco Toldo and Walter Zenga.
All praise, then, for Onana. No one in Milan is still talking about how he left Ajax last summer. Endt: “Of course in Milan they knew about the stories from the Netherlands, so also for them it was a little bit of scanning. But I don’t hear anything more about that.”
Hook underlines that: “They only look here at how he is performing now.” According to him, Onana has regained his Ajax form, which he had before all the perils. “I think he might even be better.”
“When you make such an impression at a club like Inter, you are accomplishing something,” Hook explained. “If he continues like this, he will be in a line with Júlio César, Francesco Toldo and Walter Zenga.” All goalkeepers with great stature within the Milan club.
But, Hook immediately adds, “He has to stay, of course. There are gossips that Chelsea are interested. And I would be little surprised if he actually leaves this summer. For a better salary and the Premier League…. But that remains to be seen, of course.”
“No, I wouldn’t be surprised by that either,” Endt responded. “It’s utopian to think that that boy plays with his heart and soul for Inter. He doesn’t think about those lines at all.”
In any case, the focus now is on tonight’s semifinal. Against city rival AC Milan, the derby has been played 235 times before. Milan is fifth in Serie A, two points behind number four Inter. “Every derby escapes science,” Endt said thoughtfully. “AC Milan is just a little bit more stable, I think.”
Hard to predict, according to Hook who still expects Onana to play a Champions League final. “The pressure is huge. So I don’t expect a very spectacular duel. But I think Inter are the favorites over two pots.”