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Apr 16, 2014

Ignore the soap opera and appreciate Icardi's talents

Inter striker Mauro Icardi makes almost as many headlines for his off-the-field behaviour as he does on a football pitch. But those who focus on relationship with Wanda Nara, his former teammate's wife, fail to see what a brilliant player he is.

In his remarkably short professional career, Icardi has shown that he has the potential to become one of the best strikers in the world.

The former Barcelona prodigy joined Sampdoria on loan during the 2010-11 season, where he scored 13 goals in 19 games with their Primavera team. That goal-scoring rate resulted in the striker joining Sampdoria for the bargain of 400,000 euros in July 2011. Icardi scored on his debut against Juve Stabia, helping the club clinch a place in the playoffs through which they were promoted back to Serie A.

- Serie A: The Icardi v Lopez soap opera - Wilson: Inter regain confidence

But it was his exploits against Juventus that propelled Icardi into the spotlight. In January 2013, Samp were losing 1-0 and down to 10 men at the Juventus Stadium. Icardi carried the team on his young shoulders and scored twice to lead his side to victory in one of the shocks of last season in Serie A. Icardi finished his first full season in with 11 goals, the final one proving the winner in another unlikely 3-2 triumph over Juve.

In that year at Sampdoria, Icardi made 31 appearances (24 starts), scoring 11 goals. The remarkable aspect regarding his goal-scoring record last season was how deadly he was in the penalty box. He took 51 shots in those 31 appearances -- but 21 of them were on target, which resulted in 11 goals. So just over 50 percent of the time Icardi put a shot on target, he scored.

The 21-year-old striker’s performance caught the eye of Inter, and last summer, the Nerazzurri signed him for six million euros. A huge one-year profit for Sampdoria, but still a steal for Inter, even though many fans felt it was too soon to buy him.

On arriving at the San Siro, he picked up where he left off, scoring against Juve in the Derby d'Italia and in a 1-1 draw with Cagliari. A hernia problem then derailed him for a large part of the season, limiting him to only 975 minutes this season (54 minutes per game average). But in his 18 appearances (eight starts), Icardi has still managed eight goals and two assists.

As we saw at Samporia, Icardi is deadly in the box. In his 18 appearances for Inter, he has taken 32 shots, 11 of which have been on target, and the result is eight goals. What fans fail to realise is that as a professional, his career has barely begun -- he has started only 32 games -- and sometimes we forget how young he is.

Icardi has always been a goal-scoring prodigy; he scored hundreds of goals as a child before joining Barca’s famed La Masia academy, where he scored 38 over a two-and-a-half-year period.

In his limited time at Inter, Icardi has shown that he has the potential to become a world class striker. Nobody is more clinical in front of goal -- and that includes Diego Milito.

The once-capped Argentina international still has a lot of holes in his game, but as he develops and gains more experience, he will grow. Keep in mind, though, that this is someone who has yet to appear in 50 Serie A games.

Icardi has been in the spotlight for the wrong reasons recently, but at a time when Inter are linked with big money centre forwards like Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto’o, the club should not be too quick to discard the young striker.

None of the strikers that Inter is linked with -- especially Torres or Eto’o -- will score as many goals for Inter next season as a fit Icardi will.