Icardi snubbed Europa League after losing captaincy, says Inter coach

Inter Milan's Mauro Icardi has a contract which runs until 2021, but he has been linked with a move away from Italy to Spanish giants Real Madrid or Chelsea in England. — Reuters pic
Inter Milan's Mauro Icardi has a contract which runs until 2021, but he has been linked with a move away from Italy to Spanish giants Real Madrid or Chelsea in England. — Reuters pic

MILAN, Feb 14 — Argentina forward Mauro Icardi refused to play in Inter Milan’s Europa League game against Rapid Vienna this week after learning he had been stripped of the team’s captaincy, coach Luciano Spalletti revealed yesterday.

Icardi was replaced as Inter captain in favour of goalkeeper Samir Handanovic yesterday because things around him were “disturbing him and the team,” Spalletti said.

The 25-year-old has yet to sign a new contract as negotiations have stalled between the club and the player’s wife Wanda Nara, who also acts as his agent.

“The club can confirm that Samir Handanovic is the new captain of the team,” the Serie A outfit tweeted.

Spalletti later said: “The decision to remove the captaincy from Icardi was difficult and painful, absolutely shared by all the club members and taken for the good of Inter.

“He was called up for Vienna but he did not want to be there.

“Things around him have disturbed him and the team he captained. Now we have to focus all our attention on tomorrow’s (Thursday) game.

“We hope the team will react in the right way. There will be others to talk about it further, but as far as I’m concerned, the question ends here.”

Icardi — valued at €100 million (RM458.2 million) — has a contract which runs until 2021, but he has been linked with a move away from Italy to Spanish giants Real Madrid or Chelsea in England.

The ex-Barcelona youth academy graduate joined Inter in 2013 from Sampdoria, and has scored 122 goals in 208 appearances.

The last seven Serie A games have drawn a blank for the player who scored a season’s best 29 league goals in 2017-2018 and this campaign has 15 in all competitions.

‘Nasty things’

Nara insisted recently “the contract is still very far from being signed” with big clubs in Spain, England and France interested in recruiting Icardi.

But she told Italian television this week: “I’d like to see Mauro more protected by the club because sometimes nasty things have come out from inside.

“The priority is Inter, I’ve never demanded a renewal. We’re in no hurry, he still has two years left on his contract.”

Inter are third in Serie A, 20 points behind champions Juventus, and four points ahead of city rivals AC Milan, after beating Parma last weekend having taken just one point from their three previous games.

“There’s a situation that needs addressing and I said it after Parma. What’s happened confirms that,” continued Spalletti.

“We’ve made a decision at an appropriate time and one that was well thought out, albeit one that was very painful.”

It remains to be seen whether Icardi will line up in Sunday’s Serie A clash against his former club Sampdoria.

Meanwhile, news of his losing the captain’s armband whipped up a storm on social media.

Inter midfielder Marcelo Brozovic ‘liked’ a number of posts about the Argentine losing the captaincy, while the player’s sister Ivana accused his wife Nara of causing him problems.

“My poor brother, but why do you continue to allow all this?” she wrote on Twitter in a post later deleted.

“Inter don’t permit such attitudes. If you had a serious person behind you, who really cared for you, this wouldn’t happen.” — AFP

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