Paddy Agnew’s Notes From Italy: Icardi Finally On The Move From Inter?

When Inter Milan announced last Saturday that their one-time captain and Main Man, Argentine striker Mauro Icardi, will not be taking part in their forthcoming pre-season Asian tour, we wondered if this was indeed the final “endgame” in the tortured relationship between player and club.

Rather than travel with his team mates for a tour that includes prestige friendlies with Manchester United, Juventus and Spurs, 26-year-old Icardi will stay in  Milan, training on his own at Inter’s Appiano Gentile sports centre. At this point, it would seem that the only relevant question re Icardi’s future concerns his next port of call. Will it be Juventus or Napoli or somewhere else? One thing seems pretty clear, namely that after six seasons with Inter, he has come to the end of this particular road.

It is never easy to define the moment when the strains and tensions of any intense relationship move beyond breaking point but the beginning of the end for Icardi at Inter probably started last January. It was then that the player, through the person of his “agent-wife”, Argentine Wanda Nara, began negotiations for the renewal of his €5.3 million contract.

A media “wannabe” and TV pundit herself, Wanda Nara probably did not endear herself to many at Inter by using social media and TV to comment on her husband’s situation. Last December, she told football chat show, “Tiki Taka”, that Inter had wanted to sell Icardi (to Juventus) last summer but that the player had refused.

In January, she then appeared to conduct the contract renewal in public, posting on social media that “…we haven’t yet received a satisfactory offer from Inter…Then, there are a lot of big clubs which would like to sign Mauro…”.

Perhaps, buoyed by the consideration that for much of the last six years, Icardi has been an iconic team leader, not to say Inter match winner, Wanda asked for a significant pay rise. Perhaps, she upped the stakes too much.

Inter responded by fining their captain €100,000 euro for returning to Milan a day late after his post-Christmas team break. Then the club further manifested its dissatisfaction in early February when it stripped him of the team captaincy, right on the eve of a 1-0 Europe League win against Rapid Vienna.

That exacerbation of the dispute led to Icardi basically ruling himself out of the team, officially because of a knee “problem” that saw him miss the next two months. Essentially, Icardi’s season and probably his future at Inter ended at that point.

It may well be that key to the harder line taken by the club with their team star was the appointment last November of Beppe Marotta as team managing director. Marotta, of course, had been a key figure in the Juventus success story of the last decade. Juve’s decision to offload him last summer came as a big surprise, given his key role in some lucrative and winning deals such as buying out of contract players Andrea Pirlo and Paul Pogba, the appointment of Antonio Conte as coach, the purchase of Chilean Arturo Vidal and much else besides.

Marotta’s harder line, helped by Icardi’s behaviour, seems to have weaned many of the Inter fans off their one time idol.  If Icardi had hoped that the appointment of a new Inter coach this summer, namely Antonio Conte, could see him work his way back into the club’s favours, he was wrong. Conte has stayed faithful to Marotta’s line, which is that Icardi does not enter into the club’s “future plans”.

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At this point, those future plans would appear to see Inter sell off Icardi to the first serious offer. Media reports suggest that two clubs, Juventus and Napoli, could be interested. Remains to establish the price.

Having spent the entire spring arguing with their one-time captain, Inter not only risked their own Champions League qualification, they also  reduced Icardi’s market value. It now falls to the capable Marotta to redefine Icardi’s image so as to sell him for the sort of figure, €50-60 million, that was once his market value.  No easy task.

In the conservative world of football, too, many critics will wonder about the wisdom of appointing your media friendly wife as your agent. Already, some fans had their reservations about Wanda with many of them critical of the fact that she left left her first husband, Argentine Maxi Lopez, a team mate of Icardi’s at Sampdoria between 2011 and 2013, after she had started an affair with the younger player, very much a rising star in the Italian firmament.  That, however, is another whole, complex story with the Icardi-Wanda-Lopez triangle an ongoing matter, given that three children fathered by Lopez with Wanda currently live with her and Mauro in Milan, whilst Lopez now plays his football for Brazilian club, Vasco Da Gama.

Just to add spice to a triangular love story that has much intrigued Italian football, last week Maxi Lopez, speaking on Argentine chat show, “PH Podemos Hablar”, refused to deny reports that the Sicilian mafia had contacted him with an offer to “teach Icardi a lesson” for having cuckholded his team mate. Such questionable “reports” may owe something to the fact that in his time in Italy, Lopez also played for Sicilian team Catania.

In the meantime, though, we can safely say that Mauro Icardi is on the market for those with €50 million or so to spend.

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