Trouble in paradise: what next for Icardi?

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Mauro Icardi has recently found himself out of favour at Inter Milan, failing to feature in their last four games. The Argentine striker has yet again fallen foul of the Serie A outfit and has seen his captaincy stripped from him, prompting his wife and agent, Wanda, to do the media rounds in a bid to make peace and tell her husband’s side of the story.

At club level, the striker has scored 133 goals in 243 games, meaning he averages 0.55 goals every 90 minutes, just over one goal every two games. For all his world class performances and goals, there’s always been the issue of his attitude, poor decision making and need for media limelight counteracting his ability on the field. Prost International looks at events in the Argentine’s career and what the future may hold for the extremely talented striker.

At just nine-years-old Icardi moved from his birthplace Rosario in Argentina to Spain’s Canary Islands. There, he joined local side Vecindario and scored over 500 goals while moving up the age groups. This didn’t go unnoticed in Spain and he received offers from Sevilla, Espanyol, Valencia, Real Madrid and Barcelona.

It was Barcelona who won the race for the young goal machine and he joined their Under-17 team in the 2008/09 season and went on to play for the Under-19 team before joining Italian side Sampdoria on loan in January 2011.

The Argentine settled in well at la Samp and scored 13 goals in 19 games for the Sampdoria’s Primavera youth team. The Italian side clearly recognised the youngster’s ability and took up the option to buy for a reported €400,000 in July 2011.

Icardi played in the reserve league in the 2011/12 season and bagged an impressive 19 goals. First team manager Gianluca Atzori gave the then 19-year-old his chance in the first team, coming off the bench in a game against Juve Stabia. It didn’t take long for Icardi to make an impact, in the 85th minute Icardi bagged the winner securing a 2-1 win for his side. Icardi played regularly for Sampdoria the following season and scored 11 goals in 33 games.

In April 2013 it was announced that Icardi would join Inter Milan ahead of the 2013/14 season for a reported €6.5 million.

It’s here where Icardi really started to flourish. Icardi has scored 122 goals in 210 appearances for I Nerazzuri with goals in the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, Coppa Italia and a tremendous goalscoring record in Serie A, scoring over 20 goals in three of his five campaigns, excluding the current season.

The Inter striker finished as top scorer in the 2014/15 and 2017/18 seasons. In 2015 aged 23, Icardi was given the honour of becoming club captain.

His career to date is that of a star. However, there’s a lot more to the striker’s seven years as a professional, specifically his time at Inter which has been filled with off the field problems that have hindered him.

It started back at Sampdoria in 2013, the Argentine was outed for having an affair with Argentine showgirl Wanda Nara, wife of fellow Sampdoria man and friend of Icardi’s Maximiliano Lopez.

The situation was played out like an episode of Eastenders and the trio spent a lot of time in the papers and on the television, but it was never to talk about football.

The two men simply couldn’t continue playing for the same team and Inter seized upon the opportunity to sign Icardi and defuse the situation slightly. The drama has continued for five years with both sides regularly posting cryptic messages on social media and Lopez even took Nara to court.

In 2016 Icardi’s autobiography was published, titled Sempre Avanti (always ahead) where he wrote about an incident with the Inter ultras following a 3-1 away loss at Sassuolo on February 1 2015.

In the book the striker explained that he and teammate Fredy Guarin went to face the ultras after the defeat. Icardi supposedly handed his shirt to a child, he then claimed that the head ultra took the shirt from the child and threw it back at the then club captain.

Thankfully for the club, the episode appeared to end there and neither Icardi or the fans mentioned the incident again, until the book. The striker was clearly still enraged by the incident and claimed that the clubs directors were concerned that fans would wait outside his house for retribution. Icardi wrote:

“but I was clear, I’m ready to face them one by one. Maybe they don’t know that I grew up in one of the South American neighbourhoods with the highest rate of crime and people killed in the street.
How many of them are there? Fifty? One hundred? Two hundred? Ok, record my message and let them hear it. I will bring 100 criminals from Argentina who will kill them where they stand, then we’ll see.”

The ultras retaliated quickly, declaring that Icardi’s description of events were simply “Lies. Lies. Lies.” Icardi responded with a length Instagram post where he declared himself sorry and asked the fans to support the team, even if they could not support him.

The Curva Nord did not accept his apology. In their next game against Cagliari there were numerous banners displayed declaring Icardi a liar, a coward, a heinous mercenary.  One banner read “100 trophies and 100 goals, they will not erase the sh*t you are.”

Inter fans reveal a banner at their game against Cagliari reading:
100 goals and 100 trophies- they will not erase the sh*t you are.

The incident left the fans divided and it can’t have been pleasant for anybody at the club. The San Siro was divided with fans outside of the Curva Nord often backing their captain and drowning out the booing and whistling directed at Icardi by applauding their star man.

Thankfully for Icardi the fact that he was their biggest threat in front of goal meant that tensions calmed after a while and Icardi finished the season with 16 goals. He then went on to score 26 goals in all competitions in the 16/17 season and 29 goals in the 17/18 season. The Curva Nord may have forgiven their captain, but they certainly hadn’t forgotten the incident, and tensions were soon set to rise.

The 26-year-old has been in contract talks with Inter for some time. However, the negotiations are being handled by wife and agent, Wanda. Mrs Icardi often uses her platform on Italian TV show Tiki Taka to talk about the situation with the striker’s contract and stirs up talk of him leaving to join Serie A rivals Juventus. There are also incidents of her saying less than complimentary things about some of Icardi’s teammates.

Earlier this month the frustration from the clubs manager and hierarchy boiled over. Frustrated with the ongoing contract situation, the club stripped Icardi of the captaincy and handed it to goalkeeper Samir Handanovic. Icardi responded by making himself unavailable for the sides last three matches, a Europa League Round of 32 away leg against Rapid Vienna, a Serie A home match against Sampdoria and the sides Europa League Round of 32  home leg against Rapid Vienna, where Inter secured a place in the Round of 16 with a 5-0 aggregate win.

The striker claimed to have missed the games due to a knee injury. Icardi did not play in the game on February 24th against Fiorentina which finished 3-3, although it is unclear whether he ruled himself out for this game or whether this was a decision made by the club.

The Nerazzuri’s head coach Luciano Spalletti has gone on to say that the Argentine striker “did not want to be there”. He said:

“The decision to remove the captaincy from Icardi was difficult and painful, absolutely shared by all the club members and taken for the good of inter.

“He was called up for [the game against] Vienna but he did not want to be there. Things around him have disturbed him and the team he captained.”

What’s next for Icardi?

He’s turned things around once at Inter after his clash with the fans, but recent events will likely be one step too far for all parties. It’ll be a big loss for Inter if the forward does move on as he’s been their main man in front of goal for several seasons. A player that almost guarantees 20 goals a season is tough to come by and they’ll find him hard to replace.

Not one person is bigger than a club and the proud fans of Inter Milan will certainly make that clear. If Icardi does not sign a contract extension then he still has a release fee of a reported €110 million. A huge amount of money but in the footballing world of today there will be plenty of clubs prepared to stump up the cash for a striker who on the field, has it all. Real Madrid, Barcelona and Chelsea have been linked with the forward since the recent announcement stripping him of the captaincy.

It’s set to be an interesting few months for both Inter and Icardi. If the issues can somehow be put to one side for the remainder of the season, then he’ll play an integral role in the sides Europa League campaign and fight to ensure a top four finish in the league.

A lot can happen between now and the summer transfer window. However, for many it wouldn’t be a surprise, and would be somewhat a relief if the title of his next book reads ‘andare avanti’.

 

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