22 Striker Internazionale Argentina
Love him, loathe him or simply share his own reservations about his natural ability, Mauro Icardi is undeniably one of Europe’s most intriguing young footballers. Constantly at the centre of contract negotiations, transfer rumours or both, the 22-year-old Argentine endured a tumultuous 2014 – self-inflicted, naturally – but has remained at the forefront of Internazionale’s gradual improvement.
2015 has been…
A tale of two Icardis. One Icardi was involved in an ugly confrontation with Inter fans in February and refused to celebrate during a stellar goalscoring performance against Palermo, claiming not to be a football fan. The other, who says he’s misunderstood, set himself a target of 20 Serie A goals, passed his previous season’s tally of nine in January, hit 15 as the league’s joint top goalscorer in March and ended the season with 22.
2014’s Icardi headlines were utterly dominated by his relationship with Wanda Nara, now his wife and the mother of Icardi’s first-born, who arrived in January. Fatherhood suits him; in 2015 he’s found a knack for clinical finishing, improved his consistency and started to collect positive headlines in place of scandals and gossip. Now Inter’s captain, Icardi is reinforcing his promise as a frightening forward.
Against a backdrop of reported interest from Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea – interest Icardi says would honour him, while a move to Atletico Madrid reportedly stalled over image rights – the Nerazzurri’s new leader has just kept on scoring. In July he targeted Champions League qualification as Inter’s goal this season and he’s backed it up on the pitch. While the goals haven’t necessarily been arriving thick and fast as he works his way back from injury, an Icardi-led Inter are winning matches and becoming difficult to beat.
Despite not being a natural Icardi is undoubtedly a force. He’s deceptively quick over the grass off the ball and offers a real presence up front. He’s a very intelligent mover in the box, creating space by peeling off or simply standing still while defenders move. He’s always looking to make the killer run in behind and often his timing is impeccable. On top of that, a lovely first touch and aerial ability at both ends makes him a genuine threat.
On the pitch, Icardi lacks a bit of polish at 22. His composure and his decisions will improve in time and with experience. So too will his finishing; despite being a player with a lot of quality and plenty of goals to his name, Icardi misses too many good chances. He’s already set himself a target for the season but breaking into the Argentina team and adding to his single cap has to be another.
Elsewhere, Icardi split with one of his representatives, agent Abian Moreno, in October. The youngster has already appointed a replacement, handing her responsibility for his business dealings. Who? Wanda Nara, of course.
B Keeping his head down and proving his worth
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