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Samir Handanovic continues to show how vital he is to Inter's season

In a world where football is revered for sublime finishing and incredible skill, less glamorous parts of the game get forgotten. Defending is certainly an art form that seems in some ways to be unappreciated, as does the role of the goalkeeper. Against Torino on Sunday, Samir Handanovic showed once again how essential the latter role is as he produced yet another superlative display that has kept his team competing near the top of Serie A.

Tactically speaking, Roberto Mancini got it spot on. It was dangerous for him to match Torino's 3-5-2 directly, as this system had backfired in the 4-1 home defeat against Fiorentina in September. But not only did the Nerazzurri compete with the Granata in the first half, they also rectified some of their recent failings. The tempo was much higher from the start and the possession was much more effective. Mancini saw his team move the ball well in trying to release their full-backs, as they were to be the main avenue of attack.

It was this approach that led to left wing-back Yuto Nagatomo's cross for Rodrigo Palacio, who flicked the ball into the path of Geoffrey Kondogbia for the French midfielder's first goal in Serie A. The Nerazzurri were tested in the second half as they sat back and allowed Torino to come at them, but the defence -- and, in particular, Handanovic -- showed they were up to the task. Thanks in large part to the character and athleticism of Inter's number one, Mancini's team left Turin with all three points. The goalkeeper did well to deny Fabio Quagliarella's volley from point-blank range, following it up with a diving stop to deny Andrea Belotti's rebound.

While this single moment showcased the best of his reactions and bravery, it is just one incident in a long line of heroics by the 31-year-old so far this term. Even later in that game he was tested twice more by Quagliarella and once from Giuseppe Vives. This season alone he kept eight clean sheets and has stopped Inter dropping points on numerous occasions. He is conceding an average of 0.58 goals a game, making an average of 2.75 saves in a match, rating as the No. 1 goalkeeper in Serie A this season statistically according to Squawka.

Against Carpi, Handanovic made two fantastic late saves in Inter's narrow 2-1 win and against Bologna, the Slovenian stopped Mattia Destro grabbing a 94th minute equaliser. His most spectacular moment came against Roma, when he earned a man of the match performance following four close-range saves in as many seconds. The quadruple stop highlighted his absolute necessity to Mancini's side, vital in several games won by a single goal.

But Handanovic is not infallible, as highlighted by September's heavy defeat vs. Fiorentina. If he was to have a weakness, it could concern his footwork and distribution, but his concentration was costly against the Viola, giving away a penalty and failing to come off his line in time to deny another second goal. By his own admission, his decision-making let the team down that day, but these bad games are so few and far between that there is a very strong argument to call this a one-off and move on.

It is for this reason that the Nerazzurri are desperate to keep hold of him; after all, he's quickly become one of their prized assets. Despite being courted by the likes of Manchester United in the summer, the 31-year-old has always professed his want to stay in Milan. Talking to Sky after the Torino game, Handanovic assured fans about his new contract: "The renewal? I have an agreement with the club; I don't think there will be any problems."

The news will be music to Inter's ears for they need a goalkeeper with his skill set to help organise the defence in this pragmatic and defensively minded approach. Former greats who have played for Inter in the same position have lauded plenty of praise on him. After Handanovic saved his 21st penalty (another asset), Gianluca Pagliuca told the Inter Channel that "having a good goalkeeper between the posts is a nice advantage... Handanovic has extraordinary qualities." Francesco Toldo has also spoken of the Slovenian's strength of character and how he often carries the team.

Once the ink dries on his new contract, all those in the Inter camp will enjoy a long intake of breath. The relief will be as evident as it was on the faces of Jeison Murillo and Joao Miranda on Sunday when Handanovic made his stunning double save. It must not be forgotten how crucial his position is but his high level of play isn't a slight on the defence as a whole.

When people ask how far can this Inter team go this season, they should perhaps look at Handanovic before they answer.