Mauro Icardi: Has Inter Found Its New Number Nine?
Following months of speculation, Mauro Icardi was finally confirmed as an Inter player this month, joining from Sampdoria. The Argentinian is one of two young strikers acquired this summer, with Ishak Belfodil joining the Nerazzurri from Parma. Icardi raised a lot of eyebrows this past season with the Blucerchiati, netting 10 goals in 31 games. Considering that he turned 20 in February, it’s an impressive return for someone his age, but Biscione supporters must be wary of their new acquisition.
The goal return is solid, as mentioned before. However, it should come with an asterisk. Icardi scored his first goal in his 13th appearance of 2012/13 in a 3-1 win over Genoa in the Derby della Lanterna. The 20-year-old failed to find the back of the net in the next five games, but earned his premier Serie A brace in the opening match of 2013 against Juventus. Just three weeks later, Icardi followed that up with four goals in a 6-0 demolition of Pescara. The Rosario native would bag just three more over the next three months to finish off his campaign.
Not only did Icardi’s goals come in gluts, but in most matches where he failed to get onto the score sheet, he was largely invisible. In 24 starts, the former Barcelona product was substituted out of the game eight times. For a player who’s brightest performance was against Pescara, the team with Serie A’s worst defence, more should be expected out of someone with that much discussion surrounding him.
New coach Walter Mazzarri is also notorious for not starting youth. His Napoli XI’s average age was 29.3 years old, while Inter’s entire squad is just under a year younger. Normally it would be hard to get into the starting lineup, but luckily for Icardi, it might not be much of an issue with this Nerazzurri team.
Since Diego Milito will miss the first couple of months of the season due to a horrific knee injury, Icardi should get minutes due to the lack of options up front. Belfodil and Rodrigo Palacio are the other two viable striking options. Plus, with the Argentine wearing the number nine shirt, that alone would get him more playing time.
The good news for Inter supporters is Icardi’s age. At 20 years old, he still has a steep learning curve and has obvious technique. Another part of the Argentinean U-20 star that Nerazzurri fans will adore are his displays against bitter rivals Juventus. Three goals against a side that allowed a league low 24 is a great feat. Very few players had the opportunity to score a brace against Juve in 2012/13, so to get three in two matches is monumental, especially for someone that young.
What’s important is that coaches and fans remain patient with Icardi. He proved that he could be a leading Serie A striker in a few years, but he must be nurtured properly and not be in over his head. Maintaining reasonable expectations and keeping composure is crucial over the next few years of his career. If all of those requirements are met, then the young forward could be one of Inter’s top players in the near future.