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FEATURE | Mauro in Paris: How letting go of Icardi and bringing in Lukaku has improved Inter

Mauro Icardi’s career has been illustrious since he began to make a name for himself in the Serie A – he has always been known as an elite striker, scoring plenty of goals and establishing himself as a standout player. Before his relationship with Inter Milan started to go downhill, Icardi had quite the success.   

Icardi’s early career

The 27-year old started his youth career with Vecindario in Gran Canaria where he spent six years with the club and scored over 50 goals. In 2007, he signed his first big club contract with the youth team of FC Barcelona. Icardi joined the Catalan club at the start of the 2008/09 season, and played with the under 17 youth squad. The following season he was promoted to the under 19s team before he was sent out on loan.

Icardi was sent on loan to Sampdoria in January of 2011. The Argentine had a successful six-month loan with Sampdoria’s Primavera team, which resulted in the Blucerchiati picking up the option to buy the forward. The striker signed a three-year deal in July 2011, although his time with the Italian club was short lived.

He made his debut for Sampdoria against Roma on September 26, 2012. In his lone season in Serie A with the Blucerchiati, Icardi scored 10 goals. After two seasons with Sampdoria, the striker was purchased by Inter Milan on a transfer fee of 6.5 million euros.

 

Success at Inter

Icardi continued where he left off with Sampdoria and showed his ability to score at a rapid pace with Inter Milan. The forward became a scoring threat in Serie A where he scored 9 goals in his first season and followed up with 22 goals in his second season. 

After a fantastic season where he reached new heights in his career, the forward experienced a new challenge. Inter’s captain, Andrea Ranocchia, had a poor season in 2014/15 and this led to the club to appoint Icardi as their new captain before the start of the following season. 

In his first season as captain, Icardi scored 26 goals in all competitions. The Argentine’s most productive season with the club was in 2017/18 as he scored 29 goals and tied Ciro Immobile for the Capocannoniere race. In his six seasons with Inter, the forward established himself as an elite striker, and scored 124 goals in all competitions.

 

A sour ending

While the bulk of his time with Inter was prolific, in 2018/19 he showed a decline in his performance and had his worst season since joining. He finished the year with eleven goals in Serie A, his lowest total since his first year with the club. His leadership on and off the field wasn’t meeting expectations as teammates no longer saw him as a captain. The club and coach mutually agreed it was time for a new leader in the locker room and goalkeeper Samir Handanovič was appointed as his replacement.

After being stripped of the armband, the forward decided to skip the following Europa League game and didn’t want to join his team. Although the decision was in the best interest of the club, the forward’s attitude was poor and it created animosity. For the remainder of the season, Icardi’s playing time was limited and he spent most of his time on the bench or on the bleachers. 

At the end of the 2018/19 season, Luciano Spaletti parted ways after two seasons with Inter. This led to the appointment of Antonio Conte as their new manager. As reported by Marca, Conte explained, “His situation is clear, as was the club. [Mauro Icardi] is not part of the project. The market is still open and we’re evaluating the players to sell and to sign.”

Before Conte started with Inter, he was firm in his stance that Icardi wasn’t part of their long-term plans. The coach and management knew it was best for the club to part ways, despite the Argentine being one of the best strikers to ever play for Inter. 

 

Mauro in Paris

After a suspenseful summer as to where Icardi would play in the 2019/20 Serie A season, a deal was made right before the transfer market closed. Inter came to an agreement for the striker to join Paris Saint Germain, who had an option to purchase him. 

After his season-long loan with PSG where he impressed with the club, the Parisians picked up his option and bought the forward for 50 million Euros. In the end, this unexpected deal has panned out well for both clubs.  

Inter’s 2019/20 season had no distractions. While the club lost a quality striker up front, they also freed themselves from a player who caused problems within the dressing room and was primarily focused on himself. Regardless of how many times he mentioned that he wanted to stay with Inter, the situation was handled poorly between the striker and his agent.

Inter have done a great job addressing this issue as they acquired striker Romelu Lukaku, who has been a commendable number 9. Last year, he scored 34 goals in all competitions and re-established his form after struggling to find consistency in his final season with Manchester United. The Belgian is off to a convincing start this season, as he’s scored sevens goals in all competitions. 

Conte has always wanted Lukaku, dating back to his time as manager with Chelsea, and they have developed a great working relationship on and off the pitch. Lukaku has also developed great chemistry up front with Lautaro Martínez, and they have become one of the strongest duos up front in football.

As for PSG, they received a proven striker who needed a fresh start in his career. In his first season with the French side, he showed his scoring touch as he finished with 17 goals in all competition. He has given Thomas Tuchel a true number nine that has played well upfront with Kylian Mbappé and Neymar. 

Additionally, Edinson Cavani was in the last year of his contract, and as the Uruguayan was on the decline and aging, he no longer was part of the team’s plans. Injuries have also derailed the forward’s career and so, Icardi became the suitable replacement. He has done a good job slotting in between Neymar and Mbappe up front and has replaced the scoring output that Cavani produced. 

Inter offloaded a distraction and now have shifted their focus, while PSG received a striker who has proven to help the club. Lukaku has replaced the scoring that Icardi provided for Inter, and so far in his career with the Nerazzurri, has helped contribute to their wins. As for Icardi, he has made the most out of his opportunity and has resumed where he left off before his tumultuous end with Inter.

Jerry Mancini

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