Greg Lea casts an eye over one of the hottest properties in Italian football, Inter hotshot Mauro Icardi...
- Date of birth 19 February 1993
- Place of birth Rosario, Argentina
- Height 5ft 11
- Position Forward
- Current club Inter (45 apps, 31 goals)
- Former club Sampdoria
- International Argentina (1 app, 0 goals)
The 60 second Story
Mauro Icardi was born in Rosario in central Argentina, but by the age of six was living in Gran Canaria in Spain’s Canary Islands.
He was a teenage sensation at local club Vecindario: after scoring over 500 goals in their academy and wowing the club’s coaching staff, Arsenal, Liverpool, Real Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla and Barcelona battled it out for his signature.
As has often been the case down the years, it was the Catalans who came out on top, and Icardi headed to La Masia in 2008 aged 15.
However, despite arriving with huge promise, things did not really work out for Icardi at Barcelona and, when the opportunity came up for a loan to Sampdoria in 2011, the young Argentine was keen to take it. “If a youngster wants to grow, certain decisions have to be made”, Icardi reflected in 2013. “At the time, I spoke about it with my father and we decided to move to Italy. Fortunately things turned out well”.
That is something of an understatement: scoring 13 goals in 19 games for the club’s Primavera side, Icardi impressed Sampdoria to such an extent that they enquired about making the move permanent almost instantly.
That deal was completed in July 2011, with Barcelona compensated with €400,000. Icardi had to wait until May 2012 to make his first-team debut, but the Blucerchiati did not have wait long for their new striker’s first goal: 10 minutes after coming off the bench, Icardi netted the winner against Juve Stabia.
A fine first full campaign with Samp followed in 2012/13, with Icardi scoring 11 Serie A goals as the club cemented their place back in the top flight. Icardi’s quality did not go unnoticed, and Inter snapped up the youngster ahead of the 2013/14 campaign; unfazed by the move to San Siro, Icardi has already become one of Inter’s key men.
Why you need to know him
Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain is a ridiculously talented selection of forwards, but Mauro Icardi is the leading light in Argentina’s next generation of strikers. Despite only playing two full seasons of first-team football to date, Icardi has already become one of the most feared marksmen in Serie A and a target for some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
In a word: finishing. Icardi is lethal in front of goal, capable of dispatching half-chances with his right foot, left foot or head. He is a true penalty-box poacher, frequently finding a yard of space in crowded zones or losing his marker to create just enough room to get a shot away. His record of 31 goals in 45 games for Inter is astonishingly good for one so young.
To become a complete, modern-day frontman, Icardi should look to progress his work outside of the 18-yard box. His link-up play has certainly improved and he is also better equipped to hold up the ball this season than last, but there is often a feeling that Icardi can get disconnected from his midfielders and struggles unless he is fed chances from more creative team-mates.
His defensive contribution has also been questioned. The most desirable centre-forward today is one who presses and harries centre-backs and is also willing to sit on the opposition’s defensive midfielder when required, but Icardi has been accused of being a passenger in the defensive phase. Give him the ball in the box enough times and he will invariably score; ask him to go and win it back off defenders and start moves himself and there is less success to be had.
Club legends do not come much bigger than Javier Zanetti, the Inter great who played 858 times for the club before retiring last summer. Just one season playing alongside Icardi was enough for Zanetti to spot his compatriot’s potential: “I see a great future for him... he’s a great number nine in the penalty area with a talent for scoring goals”.
Walter Mazzarri, Inter’s former boss, was also forthcoming with praise for the 21 year-old. “He can become a true great”, Mazzarri claimed last season. “He has all the characteristics of a real striker”.
Did you know?
It is safe to say that Icardi did not receive a Christmas card from former team-mate Maxi Lopez last month. The Argentine pair played up front together for Sampdoria in the 2012/13 season, but it was their off-field relationship that generated the most headlines in the Italian media: Wanda Nara, a media personality back in South America, split up with husband Lopez to be with Icardi.
Divorce proceedings began in December 2013 and Icardi and Nara themselves tied the knot in May last year. When Sampdoria played Inter in 2014, Lopez refused to shake Icardi’s hand pre-match; somewhat cruelly, though, the Sampdoria man subsequently missed a penalty as Icardi’s brace led Inter to a comfortable 4-0 victory.
- Shooting 9
- Heading 8
- Passing 7
- Tackling 4
- Pace 8
- Dribbling 6
- Creativity 6
- Work-rate 6
What happens next?
Icardi claimed he would be happy to sign a new contract with Inter back in October, but whether he will actually do so remains unclear. The Nerazzurri’s troubling season – Roberto Mancini’s side are stuck in mid-table and remain some distance off the Champions League places – may have changed Icardi’s mind, and there have been noises coming out of Inter that they may be tempted to cash in on their star striker should a lucrative offer arrive.
Liverpool, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid are just three of many clubs to be linked with the Argentine in recent months. At just 21, time is on his side, but like all ambitious young players, Icardi will not want to wait forever to test himself at the highest level.