47. Mauro Icardi
Mauro Icardi’s Inter career thus far has been one of both immense personal and technical growth. The Argentine forward joined the nerazzurri in the summer of 2013 on the back of a strong season at Sampdoria. Icardi became accustomed to scoring in big games for the Genovese outfit. His debut goal was against Genoa in the highly coveted Derby Della Lanterna. Furthermore, Icardi came to prominence when he scored a brace, as his 10-man Sampdoria became only the second team (at the time) to beat Juventus in Turin. Icardi’s future was settled in April 2013, when it was announced that Inter would take in the striker on a co-ownership deal for 6.5 million euros. The nerazzurri beat out the likes of Napoli and Juventus to sign the in demand, 19-year-old Mauro Icardi. The La Masia graduate capped off his Sampdoria career with a goal in his side’s 3-2 win over Juventus on the final matchday of the Serie A season.
Icardi was unveiled as an Inter player alongside Ishak Belfodil, who arrived from Parma, on July 16th at Appiano Gentile. There were high expectations for the duo to form a formidable partnership under new coach Walter Mazzarri. Icardi’s debut was on the 25th of August against Genoa as a substitute. Despite failing to register a goal or assist, Icardi’s made his presence known on the pitch. The Argentine displayed his clever movement and tactical awareness to open up spaces for his teammates. After Icardi’s introduction Inter put two past Genoa to win the match 2-0. On September 14th, 2013, Inter played host to Juventus. Both teams had won their previous two matches to start off the Serie A season. In a rather cagey affair, Mazzarri decided to substitute Icardi on I the 73rd minute. Two minutes later Icardi latched onto a Ricky Álvarez through ball to clinically finish past Gianluigi Buffon; the last keeper he scored against in the league. Despite Icardi’s best efforts, Inter were pegged back and had to settle for only a point. Nevertheless, Icardi made himself a hero to the Inter faithful for his impact. You could tell from that moment; Icardi had something special. It takes a fantastic talent to score 4 goals in his first 3 appearances against Gigi Buffon. Icardi did it at the age of 19.
Icardi continued to make an impact off the bench and impressed in the limited time he was given, however, in November 2013, Icardi was caught up in a large-scale affair with Argentine super model Wanda Nara. To complicate matters, Wanda was married to Icardi’s mentor and friend Maxi Lopez beforehand. News broke that the two had been having an affair while Wanda and Maxi were married. Icardi became a victim of relentless attacks from both the Italian and Argentine media, with Diego Maradona stating that Icardi was “dead to [him].” Icardi started to get judged for his personal affair rather than his incredible talent. When analyzing the situation rationally, Icardi really should not be put completely at fault for the whole situation. Judge as you will, but Mauro Icardi was not the only factor in the whole affair. After a difficult January, Icardi gained his momentum back with a decisive match winner against Fiorentina. Icardi then broke into the starting eleven and formed a strong partnership with Rodrigo Palacio in attack as Inter finished the season strong after a poor winter period. A highlight was when Icardi scored a brace against his former side Sampdoria. In that same fixture Maxi López refused to shake Icardi’s hand. Icardi’s ability to put the personal conflict aside to showcase his capabilities was a hint of what was yet to come.
In the 2014/15 season Mauro Icardi carried over the momentum from the previous campaign. In a turbulent season for Inter, Icardi scored 22 league goals and put the team on his back for large stretches of the campaign. Despite Icardi’s fantastic season, doubts were raised over his ability to contribute to the team’s greater play. This was highlighted at the Juventus Stadium in early January, when Icardi chose to selfishly decided to shoot on a 2 on 1 instead of passing to his teammate in the situation, Pablo Osvaldo.
In the summer of 2015, Roberto Mancini named Mauro Icardi as the team captain. Inter started of the season in blistering form, but drastically fell apart during the winter stages of the season. Icardi was faced with an unenviable task of leading a divided Inter locker room. Furthermore, Icardi was deprived of consistent service from his teammates. Mancini’s staple midfield of 3 defensive, more physical minded players hindered Icardi’s game in the end. Additionally, Mancini dropped Icardi for spells of last season. The Argentine finished the season with 16 goals in Serie A, a drop off from the previous campaign.
Icardi was subject to heavy interest from Napoli and other big European teams in the summer of 2016. His agent and wife, Wanda Nara, took to twitter to convey her discontent with Inter’s management. In a long tug of war, meetings with Napoli, and a whole lot of threats on twitter, Icardi received his pay raise to earn 5.5 million euros per year. Despite the turbulent summer, Icardi once again put Inter on his back and managed 24 league goals. What was more impressive was that Icardi managed to rack up 8 assists. This season showed that Icardi is an all around, complete striker. In addition to Icardi’s assists, his hold up play and passing have improved drastically. Icardi has truly become untouchable for Inter, and will be key to fighting for Champions League qualification under Luciano Spalletti next season.
Written by: Aadam Ahmed/@Aadamahmed_