If Chelsea hadn’t been linked with enough strikers already this summer, another name is now in the frame – Inter Milan’s young Argentine Mauro Icardi. Some reports say that he and £10 million will be heading towards Stamford Bridge in return for Romelu Lukaku.
Icardi is an interesting possibility, albeit an unusual one for Jose Mourinho to be focusing on. He’s a product of Barcelona’s La Masia academy, scoring prolifically for the Catalan’s youth teams and playing for their under-19s while still only 16. He left for Italy after just three years with the Catalan club after deciding he would get earlier opportunities of first-team football away from the Nou Camp.
An impressive first full season with lowly Sampdoria saw him score ten goals to help them escape relegation, and won him a £10 million move to Inter. But his talent has flickered rather than shone since his move to the San Siro.
He has failed to become a regular starter in the first team, coming off the bench for the majority of his 19 league appearances. He hasn’t been helped by a groin injury, which kept him out of the side for nearly five months. And yet he has still notched eight goals for Inter, many of them at crucial times.
He is the quintessential goal poacher, ruthlessly efficient in front of the net, with one of the lowest “touches to goals” ratio in the top European leagues. In other words, he scores but doesn’t do much else.
His performances on the pitch have been overshadowed by his adventures off it, conducting a well-publicised affair with the ex-wife of a former Sampdoria team-mate. The two are now married, but have been criticised for flaunting their relationship ceaselessly on social media.
And there are other, more pertinent, criticisms. Inter fans have criticised his work ethic, and claimed that he is only interested in the fame and fortune football brings rather than the sport itself. The team’s manager Walter Mazzarri has lamented Icardi’s failure to track back and defend when needed, and his apparent lack of willingness to work for the team once he’s scored.
All in all, he doesn’t seem like the type of player Mourinho is usually keen on. Which is why the news reports about a move to Chelsea may be more speculation than anything based on truth.
What may be more pertinent is the further doubt it casts on Lukaku’s future at Chelsea. It’s reported that he has told Mourinho he wants to go because he is upset at the club’s signing of Diego Costa. If that is true, it’s regrettable – but it fits in with the general impression of Lukaku’s relationship with his manager and his employers.
If Lukaku is to leave, it certainly does open an opportunity for a new striker. Preferably a younger player with bags of potential who’s used to playing as a back-up or coming off the bench to score. It may not be Icardi but it could well be someone similar – as long as they’re prepared to track back.