As a failed former striker of mediocre repute, there are few things I find more frustrating than watching talent go to waste. Most of us - spectators, supporters or scribes - have harboured some dreams of swapping places with the stars who set foot on the fields of Serie A, La Liga or the Premiership. To watch gifts like those given to Mauro Icardi being apparently frittered away has the horrible feeling of seeing your best bottle of Barolo going glug-glug-glugging down the drain.
I never try to be too judgmental of anyone in the game - you need to walk a mile in their designer boots and all that - but it is hard not to tear your little remaining hair out over the Argentinian striker at times. On his day, he makes the goalscoring art look ridiculously easy with a chance conversion rate that sometimes feels higher than 100%. Just when you are wondering if he will ever touch the ball, boom, he finds the back of the net.
But, in more recent times, it is the sideshow that he brings with him that has captured the headlines and seen him fall from Inter skipper and stalwart to surplus to requirements. If ever there was a reputation that needed a move to help it be rebuilt, it was his. With that other madcap hitman Mario Balotelli having found a home in Brescia, it would be good to see Icardi settled somewhere as well. And Napoli looks like a good - and possibly only - fit.
That Sergeant Major Conte would have no time for any antics will have surprised precisely nobody at the Nerazzurri. He has preferred to bring in the armoured tank option of Romelu Lukaku to lead the attack, with Lautaro Martinez in a supporting role. Maurito has disappeared so far down the pecking order that it feels like you are looking at him with your binoculars the wrong way round.
But the forward finds himself in one of those situations not dissimilar to the great Super Mario, where the number of potential suitors quickly whittles itself down to not very many. Some clubs might not fancy him, other leagues may not suit, and few can meet his financial requirements. In the end, it feels like all roads lead to the San Paolo.
The talk is of cash or, potentially, Arkadiusz Milik plus a big bag of euros going in the opposite direction to clinch the deal. The sensation is of a team that actually wants him in their line-up and, just as importantly, the chance of a fresh start. A squad with the beautiful attacking mechanisms of Napoli looks tailor-made for a finisher of his ability. How many times have we seen them waste chance after chance, wondering what might’ve been if they just had someone clinical on the end of those passes?
And a Coach like Carlo Ancelotti has just the right attitude to cope with the vicissitudes of the goalscorer’s career. The former boss of just about every team that matters has seen almost everything in his managerial life. Anything Icardi can produce is only likely to make his eyebrow arch a little more steeply before he carries on regardless.
Yes, there would be pressure attached, of course. Few places love their Argentine stars more than Naples and there would certainly be plenty of attention and expectation. However, if you deliver the goods, there are not many clubs where the adulation provided is of such intensity.
It seems, in truth, like a no-brainer for the 26-year-old who stands at a crossroads in his career, but that is no guarantee that he will see it that way. Those of us of more modest footballing skills would jump at the chance to be given such a lifeline at one of Italy’s most entertaining outfits. It is to be hoped that Icardi - and all his entourage - will view things in that manner as well.
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