Continuing our look at the best young players in Argentina, we now reach number three. In case you missed it here is a recap so far:
All the players are eligible to play in the Olympic football tournament (born on or after 1 January 1993) and do not have to be playing their club football in Argentina. Debate between several of the Hand of Pod team has narrowed it down and as we get deeper into the countdown, some expert opinion will throw a bit more light on choices.
Feel free to comment as this is not a definitive list by any stretch of the imagination. There are some obvious names, hopefully some not so obvious names and probably double the amount that were mentioned but had to be cut.
“Icardi is not part of the football family” – When Diego Maradona is morally chastising you, you must have really pushed the limits of human decency but 22-year-old striker Mauro Icardi is well used to such outspoken opinions on him and even after partaking in a charity match for world peace in 2014, the legendary Argentina number 10 could not let us forget of Icardi’s past misdemeanors.
His rather lurid personal life played out in the tabloids somewhat distracts from his unquestionable talent and aside from harming his opportunities with Argentina it has certainly caused many to overlook his on-pitch achievements.
In the 2014/15 season, in what was a poor Inter Milan side, Icardi finished Serie A’s top goalscorer, making the 22-year-old the youngest capocannoniere since Paolo Rossi in 1978 and there are few players at the same age shouldering the burden of the number nine shirt and goalscoring duties for one of Europe’s elite clubs.
27 goals in all competitions during the previous campaign and a strike rate this season of one-in-two despite Roberto Mancini’s conservative tactics points to a lethal penalty box finisher, adept with both feet and his head.
Icardi found himself trailing in the wake of Gonzalo Higuaín this season but the point about Inter’s tactics were not lost on the club captain: “I’m a striker and I can only score if the ball gets to me. In ten games I received four decent passes and scored three goals. That seems like a good average to me.”
An unerring confidence in his ability perhaps played a large part in the young Icardi turning his back on the famed Barcelona academy when it was clear first-team football would be difficult to come by. Sampdoria provided an alternative route for a bargain fee of €400,000 and there has been no looking back.
Unafraid to make big decisions, Icardi cares even less what other people think about his choices. It is his marriage to Wanda Nara, the ex-wife of his former Sampdoria teammate Maxi Lopez, which prompted Maradona’s outburst and between the glut of photos on Twitter and his tattoos of her children with Maxi Lopez, Icardi has managed to put a lot of people off.
Some might be concerned by this public image but Icardi doesn’t appear to give it a second thought – Inter still made him club captain and wife, Wanda is now reportedly working as his agent. Mauro told Inter Channel in October when quizzed on his behaviour in October: “I do what I want and don’t care about the others.”
Argentina manager, Gerardo Martino obviously cares and since voicing his disapproval, has not granted Icardi the opportunity to add to his one international appearance. The Olympic squad would seem a perfect chance to take a look at Icardi in La Albiceleste and if he continues scoring at club level, it is difficult to see the polemic striker remaining in exile.
Jack Rathborn – Mirror Football/ESPN FC/Football Radar @JackRathborn “Mauro Icardi is one of Europe’s finest young strikers and would be receiving much more adulation were he not operating in the same league as compatriot Gonzalo Higuain, who almost singlehandedly carried Napoli to the Scudetto last season.
Some poor choices off the pitch make him tough to like, but Maurito continues to sharpen his game at Inter and even developed a creative side this season under Roberto Mancini. After meandering his way through the middle of the season with some lackluster form as the Nerazzurri’s title challenge faded, Icardi finished strongly in black and blue, thriving on limited service as a genuine poacher to reach 16 league goals from just 57 shots – one of the highest conversion rates in Europe (28%).
Had Inter surrounded him with better creative players then the 23-year-old may well have moved on by now, but he appears content with life in Milan and will likely stay for another season. This shouldn’t hinder his development too much, despite no Champions League football, as the new owners should invest heavily and Mancini will build the team around him. Icardi should make a big leap next season into that group of elite strikers and alongside Paulo Dybala represents the future of the Albiceleste.”
Inter Milan coach Roberto Mancini “He can still improve a great deal because he’s so young. No 22-year-old knows everything about being a striker – he can definitely get better in all areas of his game but can be one of the top strikers around for the next 10 years.”