“Good afternoon, everyone,” wrote Mauro Icardi on Instagram as he and his new friend Lautaro Martinez sat side by side, legs dangling in a roof-top pool with San Siro prominent in the background. In truth, Inter’s captain often invites his teammates to his iconic apartment, but with Martinez there seems to have been an instant connection, both on and off the field. As the Serie A season looms and Inter continue to strengthen, there are signs that a deadly partnership could already be forming.
Martinez arrived from Racing Club in a €22.7m deal earlier in the summer and there was excitement right from the start. Jorge Sampaoli said before his disastrous World Cup that the youngster wouldn’t look out of place amongst Argentina’s elite forwards, his good movement allowing him to link up with them, as well as the fact that he is also an explosive finisher. But while he played as a typical No 9 in Argentina, his role during preseason saw him function deeper as a hybrid No 10. Luciano Spalletti has certainly been impressed, saying after the game against Chelsea that the new boy’s work rate, physicality and intelligence only enhance his natural talent. His intelligence, in particular, will soon be tested against the rigid and forward-thinking defences of Serie A.
Preseason can never be the benchmark but, beyond fitness, it also allows players to get used to their surroundings and teammates. Martinez has scored high on his report card and got off to a flying start against Lugano, scoring after only 16 minutes. He looked threatening throughout and after the game, the Inter Coach said it was this performance which confirmed to him that he could play alongside Icardi. For too long, the Inter captain has been isolated and without regular supply lines.
Against Sheffield United, Spalletti played the two together and they shared the space, with Martinez looking to go out wide so Icardi could stay in the box, where he is most dangerous. Midway through the game, the Coach asked him to drop deeper into the hole and it was there that he came alive. Icardi instantly recognised that he didn’t have to go deep to collect the ball, and his choice to stay in and around the penalty area caused the opposition defence problems as the midfield had to track Martinez. That allowed the full-backs to overlap and stretch the play, and space started to develop. Topping it all off was a beautiful pass from Lautaro, which let Mauro score.
Indeed, the Argentines seem to be forging an immediate bond. For one, Icardi is Martinez’s idol and the latter bases his game on his fellow striker. This emergence of tutor and apprentice isn’t the reason they appear to similar style - that’s down to Diego Milito. Milito helped Icardi in his time at Inter and the returned to Racing, where he did the same with Martinez. Next time you watch either of them score, you can immediately attach the scene with memories of ‘Il Principe’. One Argentine who also has Inter connections is Daniel Passarella, the former Albiceleste defender noting Martinez has an abundance of talent, which drives him crazy with excitement. He is one man looking forward to seeing how the partnership develops.
Spalletti enters the coming campaign with a full preseason under his belt - a squad that is deep with quality (even if he won’t admit it) and, for once, someone who can share the goalscoring burden with Icardi. It is early days that is true and the season will expose whether this Argentine romance is just fantasy or a reality. One thing is for sure - if the Nerazzurri can get a tune out of the two forwards, they may have one of the most dangerous front lines in European football. They certainly have to try and do all they can to make it happen, but you don’t need to teach Argentines how to tango…