Luciano Spalletti took the lid off the Mauro Icardi problem. “It’s humiliating to negotiate with a player to pull on the Inter jersey. The way he behaved, he has to stay out.”
The decisive Lazio goal arrived after just 12 minutes, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic sneaking up behind Marcelo Brozovic to nod in a Luis Alberto floated cross at the back post.
Lautaro Martinez was injured and Mauro Icardi not called up, so Keita Balde Diao was the centre-forward. Even when the situation became desperate, Spalletti introduced Joao Mario rather than 19-year-old youth team hitman Facundo Colidio.
They pumped in crosses for 90 minutes without making much genuine impact on the Lazio defence.
“It is certainly a heavy defeat against a direct rival for position. We controlled the game for long periods, but were unlucky to waste our chances and then go behind, which allowed Lazio to focus on the defensive approach they wanted even more,” the Coach told Sky Sport Italia.
“Lazio pushed forward with their wing-backs and we found ourselves poorly organised. Lazio will always create chances against anyone and they scored at the first attempt.”
Icardi was back in training this week, but not called up for the game anyway and Spalletti finally took the lid off the real reasons.
“I know what my job is. As things stand today, for the way he behaved, he has to stay out and the others have to play. It is clear for everyone to see what happened and how events unfolded.
“I think he could’ve played 20-30 minutes, even half a game, but that’s not the point. Those who are in the locker room need to play. You need to have credibility in a group. I have had credibility for 22 years in my career, I have credibility with my players.
“It’s obvious for everyone to see what happened. It’s obvious.”
Spalletti then referred to Paolo Nicoletti, the lawyer who has been acting as the intermediary between Icardi and the club to ‘negotiate’ his return to training after the ‘injury’ that has kept him out since February 13, coincidentally the same day that he was stripped of the captaincy.
“This mediation is humiliating for Inter fans and for those who love Inter. The need to mediate with someone just to get him to pull on the shirt that they love. It’s humiliating.
“Negotiating with someone just to get him to pull on the Inter shirt. What, do I need to email 20 lawyers and ask them if I can call someone up?
“Icardi needs a game out. If he continues to behave the way he has done recently, then he can start to come back in. People say we lost games without Icardi. Inter didn’t get into the Champions League for years with Icardi. Inter lost worse games than this with Icardi.
“Lionel Messi makes the difference, not Icardi, with all due respect. Professionalism and self-respect are everything. Discipline is everything.
“I’ve left players out for far less in my time. You must have respect and behave in the locker room. The Coach must be credible and recognised as someone who will do the right thing.
“Let’s find an Inter fan and ask him – we’d have to go outside for that, mind you! – and ask him if he likes a player negotiating to pull on the Inter shirt.”
Spalletti had already dropped many hints that Icardi's behaviour was an issue, as a couple of weeks ago the player was given the all-clear to resume training by club doctors, but replied: "No, I still feel pain. I'll tell you when I am ready to play."