Football News

Mauro Icardi: Luciano Spalletti still won’t play Inter striker amid contract stand-off

By CJ Smith

Published: 15:31, 30 March 2019

Mauro Icardi recently returned to training with Inter Milan after a six-week absence, although that looks unlikely to resolve the ugly situation between player and club.

Icardi has not represented Inter since being removed as club captain in mid-February and, according to reports, the Argentine forward is at the centre of a contract dispute that may well end his six-year stay at the San Siro this summer.

The sister of Wanda Nara, Icardi’s wife and agent, has claimed Inter are trying to make a ‘show of power’ by keeping him sidelined.

The club dispute this and reports earlier in the week suggested head coach Luciano Spalletti was ready to bring Icardi back into the team for Sunday evening’s game against Lazio.

However, it is now confirmed this will not be the case due to “some new things” the Inter boss feels he now must “evaluate.”

“[Icardi] trained with us and in some ways we need to get him back into our training regime behaviour,” Spalletti told reporters.

“Considering what happened lately, including yesterday, I maintain he is not yet able to help his teammates in this game. That is why he will not be called up.

“I have to consider everything, from the previous period all the way up to yesterday. He trained with us all week, something new happened yesterday that I need to evaluate. Training sessions are fundamental. For the next few games, we’ll see.”

“Inter wanted a show of power”

Zaira Nara told Argentine TV show, Podemos Hablar, earlier in the week when asked about Icardi’s recent absence: “That is not Wanda’s fault, it is the club that wanted a show of power.

“A club can set a player aside to show what it can do, or as punishment for requesting more money.”

Zaira’s stance contradicts what Spalletti had previously said. The Inter boss had maintained that Icardi had been cleared to play by medical staff after a period out with a knee injury at the start of March, only to effectively rule himself out of action.

“The truth is that we asked Mauro if he felt like resuming training,” Spalletti told reporters following Inter’s 0-0 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on 7 March.

“The doctor said that in his view the necessary period for treatment had terminated. He replied: ‘No, I still feel pain. I’ll tell you when I feel ready to play’.

“I acknowledged what he said and went back home. The director [Beppe Marotta] will tell you the rest.”

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Central to the impasse between player and club has been the involvement of Icardi’s wife and agent, Wanda Nara.

Nara is rarely minded to keep matters between her husband and Inter in-house when it comes to media appearances.

“More than giving Mauro a new contract, I’d prefer Inter to sign someone capable of giving him five good balls in every game,” she told Italian talkshow Tiki Taka in February.

Icardi was subsequently stripped of his Inter captaincy, although Inter chiefs have refused to confirm their precise reasons for this. Spalletti merely said of the matter: “Things around him have disturbed him and the team he captained.”

“I talked to [director Giuseppe] Marotta and peace is near. If Mauro meets up with the coach on Friday, they will have to talk to each other.”

Mauro Icardi’s agent on contract dispute

A little over a week ago, Nara insisted the two parties were ‘close to peace’, although she wouldn’t reveal whether that was just a return to action until the end of the season or an unlikely contract extension.

Will Icardi leave Inter?

Any desire to leave would be understandable; during Icardi’s six years in Italy, the 26-year-old has played just six games of Champions League football. All of those have come this season, highlighting Inter’s recent struggles.

With clubs like Real Madrid and Chelsea reportedly circling for his signature, and both in need of a top-class striker moving forward, Icardi could be forgiven for wanting to test himself at an even higher level and secure that consistent Champions League football.

But with the Nerazzurri third and just two points above fierce rivals AC Milan in the Serie A table, a solution needs to be found for both parties, and quick. Inter need their top marksman back firing on all cylinders, galvanising their squad and securing another season among Europe’s elite in 2019/20.

For Icardi, his main focus should be scoring goals and proving to any potential suitors that these off-the-field issues have no bearing on his form. After all, every world-class striker has to deal with their fair share of speculation. A part of what makes them ‘world-class’ is their ability to leave all that at home and deliver the goods for 90 minutes every week.

Both Icardi and his club would do well to listen to the advice of former Inter, AC Milan and Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo, who believes his time sidelined is only serving to decrease his value: “Those who don’t play lose value: if Icardi had still been frozen out, who would’ve wanted him? Inter have another striker: how will Icardi come back after being out for so long?”

One thing now certain is that none of Pirlo’s questions will be answered by the time Sunday evening’s game against Lazio kicks off.