Mauro Icardi transfer rumours will be forgotten with goals for Inter Milan
Things are already falling apart for Inter Milan after only a week's worth of training camp. Roberto Mancini has sent warning messages in light of the club's resistance to sign every player on his wishlist, and a very understrength Inter side lost a friendly to CSKA Sofia. The latter was only made worse by a previous refusal to sign autographs, which resulted in some fans hurling abuse at the team bus. "Pazza Inter," indeed.
And yet, all of this is mere afterthought when compared to the hornet's nest that star striker Mauro Icardi's agent and wife Wanda Nara recently stirred up. Claiming that a cash-strapped Inter would need to sell the Argentine in order to break even, she went on to say that a number of clubs (including Tottenham and Juventus) were interested in her husband before mostly retracting her comments.
Cue bedlam, as Beneamata fans the world over understandably lost their minds, either conjuring up worst-case scenarios of a "Maurito"-less world or rather bluntly inviting the 23-year-old to leave as soon as possible.
Now that a handful of days have gone by, it is increasingly apparent that neither scenario is particularly likely or even desirable. Icardi, who signed a new deal with Inter last summer, has always gone to great lengths to profess his love for the club, hardly the behaviour of someone who intends to jilt it as soon as he can.
There's more: beyond Atletico Madrid's rejected offer, there is no talk of crazy sums or potential buyers flying to Milan, and even then it wouldn't be in the club's best interest to give Icardi away. With Inter set to splurge on Joao Mario, they probably can't afford anymore high-end talent, likely forcing them to look for an interesting developmental project like Palmeiras' Gabriel Jesus.
Why go through the bother of honing Icardi's skills (with all the highs and lows that that has involved) so that someone else can reap most of the benefits anyways? Take away the decisive goals scored by the Argentine last season and suddenly third place looks like a steep climb indeed, something that would probably drive Champions League-hungry players like Marcelo Brozovic, Ivan Perisic and Samir Handanovic away.
The truth of the matter is that the Nerazzurri would also be selling Icardi at precisely the wrong time, when his apparent regression (scoring 16 Serie A goals in 2015-16, compared to 22 the year before) would keep his price down. It's not unusual for players of Icardi's age to run into a difficult season, especially when Mancini runs a defensive system.
Icardi has since made giant strides, proving that his current price tag might deceive. Despite muddled attacking schemes, Mancini has crafted him into a modern, all-action striker. Gone is the forward who would wait in the box for a good chance, to be replaced by the multifaceted talent who terrorised Palermo's defence all evening in a 3-1 win in March.
Icardi may be getting less service (last year he got 1.7 shots per game, half of what he produced in 2014-15) but that doesn't mean he isn't just as lethal. If anything, he's become even more dangerous, with Whoscored ranking him first in conversion rate in Serie A. Watch his performance against Napoli in April for proof; he decided the game with a well-timed run and finish on four minutes and made it 2-0 inside 44 with a wonderful assist to Brozovic.
It's not a coincidence, either, that the 23-year-old's progress has gone hand in hand with Perisic's, who provided him with four assists in the second half of the season. Mancini's decision to mostly run with Icardi from January onward saw him rewarded with nine league goals, and the development of a striker whose contribution to the team effort is in stark contrast to his anonymous performances in the fall.
While Inter fans are right to be indignant, calling for Icardi's head is premature; you'll recall that the Nerazzurri's Treble-winning squad were very quick to ask for raises in 2010 once the Champions League trophy was securely back in Milan.
Instead of expecting Icardi to be the unforgettable, humble Javier Zanetti, let's let him be Icardi, the youngest Nerazzurro to score 50 Serie A goals, a professional who has every right to make as much as he can out of a career that can be all too fleeting.
Remember all the indignation when Wayne Rooney threatened to quit Manchester United, only to let a £200k-a-week mysteriously change his mind? That was forgotten once he got back to his goal-scoring ways. Chances are that Inter fans will be doing the same.
A freelance writer, commentator and broadcaster, Edo is co-editor of Calciomercato.com's English website. Twitter: @EdoDalmonte