Mauro Icardi has never been far away from the headlines throughout his short career so far, whether he’s simply the subject of standard transfer speculation, or shacking up with the former wife of a teammate. This time he might have taken off a bit more than he can chew, however.
Italian football has long been affected by ‘hooliganism’ and ‘ultra’ culture, with violence often in the news. You’d think that players would be best served not provoking them, but Icardi just seems to have an ingrained need to rub people up the wrong way.
When Icardi, along with Inter Milan chiefs Michael Bolingbroke and Piero Ausilio, presented the striker’s new book Sempre Avanti (Always Ahead) on October 7, few would have seen such a spectacular fallout on the horizon. But perhaps Inter as a club should have.
The Argentinian was the subject of a scathing statement released by the club’s Curva Nord ultras after one particular anecdote in the book was revealed.
Icardi recalled a 3-1 defeat at Sassuolo from the 2014-15 season, at the end of which he and Fredy Guarin engaged in dialogue with the aforementioned section of supporters.
Icardi’s recollection went like:
“I took off my shirt and shorts and gave them to a kid. I’’s a shame that a head Ultra flew over to him, took the shirt from his hands and threw it after me with disgust. In that instant I was beside myself, I would have punched him for that bastard’s gesture he’d just pulled.
“So I started to insult him harshly. ‘Piece of shit, you act the big man and all powerful with a little kid to show off in front of the Curva. You should only be ashamed. You should all be ashamed.’ After saying that, I threw the shirt in his face. In that moment, everything kicked off like the world was ending.”
Icardi in Sempre Avanti.
He also claimed that he was subsequently “applauded like an idol” in the changing rooms, while he says he threatened to bring “100 criminals from Argentina who will kill them on the spot”.
The Curva Nord’s backlash was venomous. “Icardi, as far as we are concerned, you are finished,” it began. The group pulled no punches and slammed him for his attitude, before ending their statement with one demand.
“You are finished with us. You’re done. TAKE THE ARMBAND OFF, YOU CLOWN. Yes, that is what we demand.”
Curva Nord statement.
That this all came to light just before Sunday’s home clash with Cagliari only created more intrigue for the match. And sure enough Icardi was at the centre of things.
Icardi, who had been jeered, stepped up to take 26th minute penalty and ultimately put it wide of the target.
Delight. Not only was delight prevalent among the visiting fans, but also among the Inter supporters, many of whom openly cheered as he failed to convert the penalty, while numerous anti-Icardi banners were given prominence.
Inter lost the game 2-1 and Icardi was welcomed home by another banner, this time reading “we’re here, will you let us know when your Argentinian friends arrive?”
The dust of the match may have settled, but the messy situation rages on for Inter. Both Ausilio and club vice-president Javier Zanetti acknowledged that Icardi may have to be stripped of the captaincy after talks on Monday.
And while this sorry story will likely be spoken about for some time, begs the question; how could Inter let such a potentially inflammatory story be published?