Mauro Icardi is the Kanye West of European football: brimming with talent that is always shadowed by overwhelming controversy. Recently, the Argentinian striker, Inter Milan’s top goalscorer, has not played for his club in nearly two months. On February 13th, the club stripped Icardi of his captaincy. Icardi lost the title following a dispute over his contract and his refusal to participate in the club’s Europa League match against Rapid Vienna. The latest development in Icardi’s deteriorating relationship with the club he has played for since the age of twenty, however, comes directly from the Inter Milan supporters. After six prolific years of goal scoring, the fans of the Nerazzurri have had enough of his off-the-field antics. Now, they want him out.
Icardi returned to training last week after Inter officials negotiated with his lawyers to get him to return to the team. Icardi, however, was left out of the squad for Inter’s defeat to Lazio on Sunday. Following the loss, manager Luciano Spalletti minced no words when scolding Icardi’s “humiliating” behavior that insults the club’s loyal supporters. Though Spalletti also mentioned that Icardi will feature for Milan once again, most likely in today’s match against Genoa, the response from the fans has been less forgiving.
Prominent members of the Inter Milan ultras, who are located on the Curva Nord section of the San Siro, delivered an aggressive message to the club’s leadership. In a formal letter titled, “Onwards with Inter fans, Icardi Get Lost,” the supporters explicitly called for his banishment from the club. Citing Icardi’s lack of “necessary character, not just for the captain’s armband but also for a united dressing room,” the message invited the Inter board and management to “take necessary measures as soon as possible to remove him from a squad which doesn’t seem to have any intention of sharing the immediate path with him and the future and to ensure that he does not put the end of our season at risk.” Ultimately, the supporters referenced the club’s deep history of success and professionalism as utterly foreign to Icardi’s personal motives. The end of the request draws on an emotional plea to return the club’s focus to the pitch rather than the media headlines: “For us, the value of the team must come before the personalities and those who want the media limelight. Therefore, the Nord’s position is that Icardi is no longer part of Inter and, from now on, will be treated accordingly.”
The absurdity of this situation stems from a complete disparity between Icardi’s undeniable talent and his terrible relationship with his club and the media. Without question, Icardi is one of the most natural and talented finishers of the modern game. Removing Messi and Ronaldo to the external galaxies they belong to, Icardi may be regarded as the greatest, most clinical goalscorers currently playing professional football. For those who do not frequently view the Serie A, I hope you’ll take my word for it when I say he is as dominant up front as Harry Kane and as ruthless in front of goal as Sergio Aguero. If – understandably – you’re buying what I’m selling, check out this highlight reel of some of his goals from last season (a season in which he had 16 goals and 3 assists in just 18 appearances) and make up your mind for yourself.
Regardless of your or my personal opinions, however, Icardi stands as one of the most valued players in world football with Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Real Madrid continually being linked with $115 million bids for the Argentinian’s talents. Why, then, is this beacon of talent that can lead Inter back to Italian glory so despised by his club and the Italian press?
One of the more well-documented scandals surrounding Icardi revolves around his wife, the Kim Kardashian of Italy, Wanda Nara. See, when Icardi left Argentina in 2008 for Barcelona as a young kid brimming with talent, he quickly befriended an idol and fellow countryman, Maxi Lopez. Lopez, who had been at the Camp Nou since 2005, was, at the time, in the process of forming a relationship with – who else – but Wanda Nara, an Argentine showgirl. In 2008, Lopez married Nara and held annual summer barbecues where they would invite fellow South American footballers like Lionel Messi and Mauro Icardi. Icardi, however, had his eyes on more than just the food at the parties. Icardi met Wanda, the woman that would, one day, become his wife.
In 2012, while playing for Sampdoria, Icardi was reunited with Maxi Lopez. At last, the two players were playing side by side. Behind the scenes, however, Icardi began an affair with Wanda Nara, who, he had discovered, had similar feelings for him. In the summer of 2013, the affair was exposed to the public and, with no hope remaining of Icardi and Lopez playing side by side, Inter swooped in to purchase Icardi for 11 million pounds and the young Argentinian scurried off to Milan with his new wife, 6 years his senior. The story of Icardi, Lopez, and Wanda, might as well have been torn from the scripts of an Italian Soap Opera.
Icardi’s personal relationships, though unrelated to his performance on the pitch, reveal the reasoning for his rough relationship with the Milan fans. Currently, Icardi’s Milan future is dark. With transfer bids waiting on the horizon, Icardi’s fate clearly does not reside in Milan, let alone Italy. With his relationship to the supporters and the press quickly spiraling down the drain, Icardi’s last outlet to establish his legacy is on the pitch. Whether scoring goals for Inter or another club, Icardi must return his focus to the field where, on his day, he can perform as the best striker in world football. For now, however, the rest of this Serie A season seems destined to develop as another chapter to the Icardi soap opera rather than a positive return to the club that shot him to prominence.