Mauro Icardi’s barnstorming cameos for Inter mean it is only a matter of time before he overtakes Diego Milito in the pecking order, writes Jeremy Lim.
Social media escapades come as naturally as goals to Mauro Icardi, so it was no surprise when a new stir crept up last Tuesday. The striker tweeted a video montage his flame Wanda Nara had compiled, in which a friend was seen ripping up a picture of Inter teammate Diego Milito and declaring: “Adesso basta ‘Principi’, voglio solo Mauro Icardi.” - “Enough of the Prince, I only want Mauro Icardi.”
Although Milito apparently took it all in good humour and laughed off the incident later, he has every reason to feel threatened by his compatriot’s presence. There is no telling how long more the ailing statesman can stave off his younger counterpart’s bid for a starting shirt, at his expense. Just days before the Twitter episode, Icardi had replaced him in the Nerazzurri’s trip to Fiorentina and scored the winner. That strike, a crisp finish on the volley, took the 21-year-old’s tally to a goal every 82 minutes.
Walter Mazzarri performed the swap again to good effect versus Cagliari. With the outfit clawing her way back into the match and San Siro crying out for a finishing touch to be applied, Icardi would promptly oblige by knocking down the ball for Rolando’s equaliser. The former Barcelona youth then turned a glancing header on to the bar next. Had he converted that or either of his two other woodworks this term, then Milito could be left looking in on an even more formidable striking ratio.
At 34, Milito plays on like he has lost his drive. Ineffectual since the turn of 2014, the Treble veteran has struggled to discover his former rhythm since undergoing surgery last February. The Inter faithful will therefore be relieved that Icardi is not keen on showing too much deference for the illustrious company he is in, as the talented bomber continues proving the newest hit by tearing out of the blocks thrust with the mantle of scorer.
Pre-season hype being compared next to Gabriel Batistuta was always going to be in excess, but Icardi, who struck 10 goals for Sampdoria in the previous campaign, is proving to be a quality prospect at the very least. A very-public romance with Wanda might have dogged his time at Appiano Gentile to date, yet the youngster’s basic intent and dead-eye finishing on display in flashes - including a Derby d’Italia opener, his fourth goal past Juventus in three appearances - suggests his moves are just as slick on the pitch as they are off it.
Most crucially, the starlet is demonstrating an ability to lift Inter’s performances when around. For all the time Icardi has spent nursing a sports hernia and then gallivanting online, he somehow manages to transform his team’s outlook in a game by injecting a rare breed of presence upfront.
The onus now rests on Mazzarri to entrust his man, who is developing at a fine rate under increased faith, with a starting berth at Roma this Saturday. Representing the Milan giant’s potential to improve still, Icardi promises to rouse the side further from their slumber. Milito, beware - Inter’s prolific future is here.