Mauro Icardi

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Spalletti calls Icardi’s feud with Inter ‘humiliating’

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ROME (AP) Nearly two months after it started, the ongoing feud between Mauro Icardi and Inter Milan is making more noise than ever.

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti let his fury run loose following a 1-0 loss at home to Lazio on Sunday that could be costly for the Nerazzurri’s chances of qualifying for the Champions League.

[ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule

Spalletti explained why he kept Icardi off Inter’s squad for the match, even though the striker had resumed training with the club over the international break – which followed a six-week exile after being stripped of the captaincy amid protracted contract negotiations.

“He could have played 20-30 minutes, even half a game, but that’s not the point,” Spalletti said. “Those who are in the locker room need to play. You need to have credibility in a group. … I’ve left players out for far less in my time. You must have respect and behave in the locker room.”

Spalletti added that it was “humiliating” for Inter’s fans that it required negotiations with Icardi’s lawyer “just to get him to pull on the shirt that they love.”

“Do I need to email 20 lawyers and ask them if I can call someone up?” Spalletti said.

Icardi last played for Inter on Feb. 9 in a 1-0 win at Parma. After he was stripped of the captaincy four days later, the 26-year-old Icardi had said he had a knee injury, although the club has said tests did not reveal any problem.

“It’s obvious for everyone to see what happened,” Spalletti said.

Inter remained third but is only two points ahead of city rival AC Milan, and five points ahead of rising Lazio (which has a game in hand) and Atalanta.

It remains to be seen if Icardi will return for Wednesday’s match at Genoa.

“If he continues to behave the way he has done recently, then he can start to come back in,” Spalletti said.

Wanda Nara, Icardi’s wife and manager, said her husband “is ready and it’s all down to the decision of the coach.”

TOTTI’S POSITION

Retired Roma captain Francesco Totti could be about to take on a greater role within the club’s management.

Totti has been a special ambassador for Roma since he stopped playing in 2017 following a 25-season career with his hometown club.

But with the recent departure of sporting director Ramon “Monchi” Rodriguez, Totti has been mentioned as a possible replacement.

“Everyone is talking about the possibility of a different role. We’ll see what happens in the future,” Totti said. “I can tell you that if I were to take on a new position, I would change some things. I’ve already spoken to the club about it, but this isn’t the right time to discuss it.”

Totti spoke before a 4-1 loss at home against Napoli on Sunday added another chapter to Roma’s season of discontent.

Roma was also recently eliminated from this season’s Champions League by Porto, which resulted in the firing of coach Eusebio Di Francesco, and routed 7-1 by Fiorentina in the Italian Cup.

“Everyone knows what’s gone wrong this season and that’s why we had to make changes,” said James Pallotta, Roma’s American president. “But the time for excuses is over. … No more alibis for anyone.”

JUVENTUS’ MAGIC NUMBER

Juventus needs to win only four more matches to clinch a record-extending eighth straight Serie A title.

If the Bianconeri compile the victories in succession they could celebrate another championship as soon as April 20 against Fiorentina.

That would give Juventus 90 points, which is the most that second-place Napoli could achieve – since Juventus holds the tiebreaker over Napoli.

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Icardi ends six-week exile at Inter as he resumes training

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MILAN (AP) Mauro Icardi has resumed training with his Inter Milan teammates, ending a six-week exile.

Icardi has not been on the field in more than a month, since being stripped of the captaincy amid protracted contract negotiations.

The 26-year-old Icardi has said he has a knee injury, although the club has said tests did not reveal any problem.

The Argentine forward returned to team training on Thursday with others who had not been called up for international duty.

Icardi could be called up for Inter’s next match on March 31, at home to Lazio in Serie A.

With 29 goals, Icardi was the joint top scorer in Serie A last season, sharing the honor with Ciro Immobile of Lazio. He has nine goals in 20 Serie A appearances this season.

Fellow Argentine Lautaro Martinez has stepped up in his absence, weighing in with four goals in his past nine matches.

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Serie A: Napoli let Juve’s lead get to 13; Inter win without Icardi

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A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

[ FA CUP: Crystal Palace, Swansea reach quarterfinals (video) ]

Napoli 0-0 Torino

It’s not as if Juventus need the rest of Serie A to make it any easier for them to collect their eighth straight scudetto, but that’s exactly what the last remaining challengers did on Sunday, as second-place Napoli slumped to a 0-0 home draw with ninth-place Torino. What was an 11-point lead for Massimiliano Allegri’s side when the weekend began, is now a 13-point advantage which would require inarguably the greatest collapse in sports history to throw away with just 14 games left to play.

Inter Milan 2-1 Sampdoria

Mauro Icardi remains out of the Inter Milan squad, but the side won its first game since the Argentine was stripped of his captaincy and his future at the club came under serious question.

Danilo D’Ambrosio and Radja Nainggolan bagged Inter’s goals just five minutes apart, either side of Manolo Gabbiadini‘s equalizer in the 75th. The victory kept Inter four points clear of AC Milan in the race for third.

“I really appreciated that Icardi came to the stadium but I would have appreciated it even more if he had come into the dressing room afterward to celebrate with his teammates,” Inter coach Luciano Spalletti said after the game.

“To get back to normal there are more steps to be made, more efforts. Icardi has to experience with the team the happiness of being part of this group.”

Elsewhere in Serie A

Genoa 2-1 Lazio
SPAL 1-4 Fiorentina
Udinese 1-0 Chievo
Empoli 3-0 Sassuolo

Monday’s Serie A schedule

Roma v. Bologna — 2:30 p.m. ET

Icardi drops Mark Twain quote after stripped of Inter captaincy

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Mauro Icardi has broken his silence on the stripping of his Inter captaincy and subsequent dropping for the Europa League win over Rapid Vienna. It doesn’t tell fans much, but it does say a few things.

Icardi posted on Instagram shortly after the team went final with a 1-0 European road win in Austria, using a Mark Twain quote to cryptically convey his feelings. Icardi posted a picture of himself with the caption, “‘It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.’ Mark Twain  😉🤫”

Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that this is even a legitimate Mark Twain quote. While that quote is often attributed to Twain or Abraham Lincoln, there is no actual evidence that those individuals were the ones to think up that quip.

While that doesn’t shed any light on his situation, it at least gives fans a window into the Argentine striker’s feelings. Clearly, Icardi feels he has a side to the story that will clear his name, and that those criticizing his mentality amid a possible transfer out are misguided.

In his pre-match press conference, Inter manager Luciano Spalletti said that Icardi was called up to the squad but refused to join the team. “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.”

With Icardi absent from the matchday squad on Thursday, fellow Argentinian striker Lautaro Martinez took his place and scored the game’s only goal, slotting home a penalty after earning the spot-kick. At just 21 years old, Martinez already has four caps for Argentina, scoring a goal in his short international time. Arriving from Argentinian side Racing Club in the summer, he has 16 appearances in Serie A this season, but only five of those have been starts, most often coming off the bench to accumulate his 600 minutes.

Icardi’s Inter future as shaky as ever following captaincy stripping

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Prolific and controversial Inter Milan striker Mauro Icardi has turned down the club’s call-up to travel to Austria for Thursday’s Europa League Round of 32 first leg against Rapid Vienna.

Icardi was stripped of his captaincy earlier this week in the midst of a controversial season driven by contract negotiations led by his wife Wanda Nara.

[ MORE: Man Utd paid a lot to fire Mourinho ]

The couple have been at the center of Inter controversy for some time, with Football-Italia laying out an incredible timeline of drama which includes criticizing Inter’s ultras and name-dropping potential suitors outside of the club.

Here was Inter manager Luciano Spalletti:

“It was him who didn’t want to join up with the team. He was called up. He was disappointed, but it was also difficult for us to make this decision and announce it to him. … We’ve made a decision at an appropriate time and one that was well thought-out, albeit one that was very painful. Things around him have disturbed him and the team he captained. Now we have to focus all our attention on tomorrow’s game.”

Icardi, 25, has scored 122 times with 26 assists since arriving from Sampdoria. He has 15 goals this season including markers against Spurs, Barcelona, AC Milan, and Roma, but is goalless in his last seven Serie A starts.

Longtime Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic is the new captain of the club.

In case there’s some understandable worry that we’re heaping too much criticism on the player and his agent-wife, remember that Nara left Maxi Lopez for Sampdoria teammate Icardi to start the relationship, then posted photos of Lopez’s children in Icardi jerseys before an Inter-Sampdoria match.

Buyer beware.