Stripped of the captaincy and refusing to play: Is Mauro Icardi's time up in Milan?
Huge news coming out of Italy
Serie A is a league that's really grown in popularity and stature over the last few seasons. Towards the back-end of the 00's it was seen slightly as something of a retirement league and one, with clubs such as AC Milan & Inter Milan a shadow of their former selves. But now in 2019 the game in Italy is incredibly strong, Juventus are still the dominant force but there's some top players on display and the division is going from strength to strength. There's a wealth of superstars plying their trade over there and one who regularly makes the headlines is Inter forward Mauro Icardi.
The Argentine is one of European footballs hottest properties, with him taking his game to another level since making the move from Sampdoria back in 2013. A stunning return of 109 goals in just 179 league goals shows what a player he is and he's someone you'd think that Inter would be desperate to retain at all costs. But on Wednesday some worrying news for the Nerazzurri supporters broke after it was announced that Icardi would be stripped of his club captaincy after a breakdown in contract talks - which hasn't gone down well.
Since learning of the clubs decision he's since refused to travel to Austria for Inter's Europa League knockout clash with Rapid Wien and it's left his future at the San Siro in serious jeopardy. He's been an absolute revelation since arriving in Milan so there's going to be a significant amount of interest in him should he be made available for transfer. But what next for both the player and the club?
Massive risk taken by Inter
This is an incredibly tense situation for both the player and the club, with the latter definitely hoping that it can be resolved sooner rather than later. Icardi is without a doubt Inter's best player and with him out the side they lack an awful lot of attacking prowess, along with goals. His statistics from his time in Milan speak for themselves but it's understandable to see the clubs stance on this matter. Icardi is out of contract in 2 years and they've been locked in talks with him and his representatives - which incidentally is his wife who acts as his agent - for some time now but his demands have led to this standstill.
Everyone at the club is desperate for him to extend his stay but the breakdown in talks has clearly had a negative impact not just on himself but the squad as whole, with him one of the most influential figures in the camp. So after weighing up all the factors head coach Luciano Spalletti made the bold call to strip him of the captaincy which has got a lot of people talking - but you can definitely see his reasoning behind it after claiming that the 25 year-old "did not want to be there", with goalkeeper Samir Handanovic taking over the armband.
Spalletti, who's found himself under a bit of pressure this season also added "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 Vienna but he did not want to be there. Things around him have disturbed him and the team he captained. Now we have to focus all our attention on Thursday's game."
With Icardi missing for tonights game in Vienna they now have a 122 goal hole in their attack and it's absolutely imperative they resolve this contract dispute sooner rather than later or they could lose their star man. If they meet his demands they'll have one of Serie A's best players tied down for the best years of his career and in-turn raise morale amongst the squad - but on the flip side if they give into what he wants, will it set a precedence in player power that others will try and emulate when they come to renew their contracts? It's a really delicate situation that the Inter board need to get right but they need to bare in mind that no player is bigger than the club - no matter how good they are.
What are Icardi's options?
Icardi's future with Inter Milan looks up in the air at the moment but his time at the club certainly isn't over. He's still only 25 year-old so should he stay at the San Siro he will be tied down for his best years and he'll be rewarded lucratively, with him already reportedly their top earner. Despite making the decision to strip him of the captaincy, Inter will be desperate to retain the services of their prized asset but as previously mentioned, they can't submit to player power otherwise it could set a new precedent for other members of the first team squad.
But with his relationship with the Nerazzurri board and management is strained more than ever - he could decide to move on and leave Milan for pastures new and there'd be plenty of takers for sure. Almost any club in Europe would take him but it would require a mega transfer fee to secure his services and tempt Inter to sell, especially as he still has two-and-a-half years left to run on his current deal. There's plenty of potential destinations for him but there's two which we think look more realistic than others, with Chelsea and Real Madrid both in the market in for a new centre-forward.
Chelsea, currently coached by Italian Maurizio Sarri, will know all about the talents of Icardi following his time in Serie A with Empoli and Napoli & with the Blues desperate for a new striker he fits the bill perfectly. The Premier League outfit currently have just on-loan Gonzalo Higuain and the soon to be out-of-contract Olivier Giroud as their striking options so Icardi would represent a massive upgrade and at the age of 25, he has plenty of years left to develop and grow in England. The Blues aren't afraid to splash the cash so the transfer fee certainly wouldn't be an issue and potentially playing in a side alongside the likes of Eden Hazard, Jorginho and N'Golo Kante, we could see him being a revelation in the Premier League.
The other team on the lookout for attacking talent are Real Madrid, who're going through something of a transitional period at the moment. Since losing legend Cristiano Ronaldo last summer, goalscoring has been something of an issue for Los Blancos who've really struggled to fill the void left by their talisman. Karim Benzema, Marco Asensio and Gareth Bale have all weighed in with goals but no one has been able to consistently find the back of the net like the 34 year-old did - so we're expecting them to spend some big money during this summer. Real Madrid are blessed with a plethora of creative talent in midfield and outwide so Icardi would certainly get great service, so he's an extremely appealing option for Florentino Perez and the Los Blancos board.
All-in-all, Icardi has plenty of options available to him and the coming months are going to be very interesting surrounding his future. Inter will be desperate to hang onto their star man but it could end up having a detrimental effect on the squad - so Luciano Spalletti and the Inter board need to weigh up all the pros and cons surrounding it.
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