In what should have been the week Inter returned to the Champions League knockout stages, cementing their return to the European elite, the club finds itself in turmoil yet again. It all began with a simple tweet:
Mauro Icardi had held the armband since the 2015-16 season. In that time he has established himself as one of the elite strikers in Europe, scored his 100th goal for the club and helped guide Inter back to Europe’s premier competition this season.
While his performances could not be questioned, he seemed unable to avoid criticism for what happened off the field. First there was the conflict in Sassuolo, then the release of his inflammatory autobiography.
The player himself has cooled in recent times, but his wife and agent Wanda Nara has stepped into the spotlight - particularly in the last few months whilst trying to negotiate a new contract for her husband/client.
According to reports, these statements (e.g. the sale to Juventus, the criticism of his teammates etc.) are what forced the club to take the armband off the Argentine.
Below, the SoM team will give their thoughts about how this move will shape the clubs future.
Do you support Inter’s decision to strip Mauro Icardi of the captaincy?
Luca - I think it’s an incredibly risky move - one that could well shape Beppe Marotta’s legacy at Inter. It was made at such a tense time of the season, as well. That said, I am choosing to trust the club and believe that the environment must have become so toxic that it was necessary. Much like a coach, if the dressing room turns against their captain, then it is time to find a new leader.
Matt - It is an interesting decision, but I have to say I do agree with it. There is something amiss with Icardi — whether it is his contract negotiations, buckling under pressure or other personal issues — and something needs to get worked out. I can’t say this is a bad idea, even if Icardi had not asked to miss the Europa League match.
Will - Yes. My immediate reaction upon first hearing the news was that it’s madness and too great a risk to take at such a crucial stage of the season. However the more I think and read about it, the more it seems clear to me that the club did the right thing, because they wouldn’t have taken this decision unless they felt it was absolutely necessary.
The moment Icardi failed to distance himself from Wanda Nara’s most recent comments, which directly called into question his teammates, he ceased to be the leader of that dressing room. He no longer represents them and it’s therefore only correct he is demoted. I can actually believe him when he says he didn’t even know what Wanda had said on TV at the weekend, but that doesn’t make it a legitimate excuse.
Ultimately, though, results will dictate whether this was the right call. Nothing else.
Marco - I do agree with the previous comments and also trust the Management. However, I don’t believe this decision should be evaluated by the results that will come in the next months. On the other hand, I believe it was a principle-based decision: FC Internazionale comes before any individual interest.
It’s a big step for a Club that has been known to deal with things in a more anarchist and familiar way, something that made it unique for many years during the Moratti era. This is a different era though, and the organisation has made that clear with the hiring of Marotta, besides the other steps taken. Inter wants to look far ahead, and before doing that it needs also a clear internal structure, where the wife of the captain doesn’t just go public by saying whatever she wants, with no respect for the Club’s interests. In the past, when Icardi published his book, the Club’s silence showed its weakness. Now, times are different and the message was delivered...
Who do you think is most at fault in this case?
Luca - I think the responsibilities must lie mostly with the Icardis. Not just Wanda, but Mauro as well. I think Wanda is doing the right thing by trying to get the best deal for her client (who deserves it), but her methods are hard to stomach. To go on national television and leak the story about the club agreeing a deal with Juve, or that they need to buy better players to support Icardi etc. was never going to go down well. It’s on Mauro too, however, as he chooses who speaks for him (as any player does when they choose an agent) so we can only assume he supports her.
Matt - This lies all on Icardi’s feet. He made a conscious decision to remove himself from the lineup and he has to deal with the consequences. The drama surrounding a potential renewal is just word play at this point. I don’t agree with airing club business in public and that also lies with Icardi.
Will - The club cannot be blamed for anything in this story. If they have made a mistake it would only be to have waited too long before intervening in one way or another. Mauro and Wanda have made this bed for themselves and now they’re going to have to lie in it.
Quite how you divide up the blame between the Icardi clan is a more complex issue, because both have screwed up here, but ultimately Mauro must shoulder greater responsibility because he’s the captain. He should know what Wanda is saying on television and he is obliged to act when her comments cross the line, no matter how difficult it may be given she’s his wife. If he can’t do that, then he can’t be captain. Simple.
Marco - Ultimately, Mauro’s. What Wanda was trying to get for him is totally legitimate, but it should stay within the professional boundaries. When his wife/agent was coming out with more and more “spicy” news, the captain should have taken a position, not against his wife of course, but at least professional position to distance himself, which he never did.
Do you believe Icardi will be sold in the summer?
Luca - Unfortunately, yes. I would love to see him remain at the club, and focus on scoring goals rather than the added pressure. I think the club has finally turned the corner and will continue to improve. The way this has all gone down, and the fact that he’s almost being asked to support either his wife or his club, I think he’ll put his family first and move on. I don’t think we’ll get a good price for him, either.
Matt - It’s hard to say. This could just be a move that strengthens Icardi on the field for Inter. Relieving the pressure of being the field captain could be just the thing to kick start his mind to get back into the game and be just as productive as he has been in year’s past. The market for Icardi will be there, but I have to agree with Luca, I don’t believe Inter will get a ton of money for him. His release clause is still in effect and that will be about it. The question is what team would pick him up in the summer?
Will - Emotionally, it feels like he has to leave. This is a definitive punishment - it’s not as if Inter can just give the armband back to him in a fortnight - and it’s hard to see how both parties will sort out their differences.
Ultimately, though, a sale is currently in neither party’s best interests, so I don’t think it’s a dead cert. A lot could happen between now and May and Icardi’s future could well change drastically based on these next three months.
Marco - Unless we would see a surprising turn of events, it really looks like that. The decision is of course a strong step in that direction, but I believe the path was already clear. The move might actually represent the best interest for both the Club and Icardi. The former could make some good use of the money without selling other big pieces, while Icardi at 26 years old will certainly look for a further step in his career.
What impact do you think this will have on the season (and beyond)?
Luca - With this team, who knows? I’d like to think that the rest of the team will take this as a sign that management supports them, and respond accordingly. Will we see improved enthusiasm across the board? If we do, then I think the club can still finish in the top four. If the players are behind Mauro, however, then we’re in trouble. Big trouble. Icardi’s response will also be very interesting. Choosing to sit out the Rapid game is a truly terrible look for a player who claims to love the club. I’d love for him to put this behind him and focus on scoring, if only to boost his value when he chooses to leave.
Matt - What this does is open a lot of doors to other players. For so long, Inter have been in the shadow of Icardi and how he is playing. Now, players like Lautaro Martinez, Ivan Perisic, Milan Skriniar and even Joao Mario have an opportunity here to step up and make a name for themselves. This can also be an opportunity for Icardi to focus strictly on football. Not having the pressure of being the captain can take a ton of weight off a player. All-in-all, this has the potential to be a season-changing event, for the good.
Will - This is an unprecedented decision so it’s impossible to know what impact it will have. We have nothing to measure it against. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team completely disintegrates from hereon in and I wouldn’t be surprised if this whole saga galvanizes them.
If Icardi really has lost the dressing room, though, which is what has been widely reported in Thursday’s papers - apparently he’s been eating lunch on his own in the canteen this week - then really this should have a positive impact.
By taking this decision the club have sprung to their players’ defense (some of whom quite rightly felt offended by Wanda’s comments), reminding everyone that they’ve got their backs, so it should help them perform better. In theory.
Marco - Technically, a recovering of Icardi at his best is in the interest of both. However, the psychological consequences, the media and the relation with the dressing room might get in the way of an improved performance. For that as well, I appreciate the decision of the Club as a very bold one. Definitely Marotta and his team considered the consequences when deciding.
What do you think? Post your comments below!