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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.

Transfer rumors: Morata out, Icardi in at Chelsea; Perisic to Man United

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Chelsea’s search for a new striker continues, as Alvaro Morata’s time at Stamford Bridge appears to be almost up.

A report from ESPN says that Morata’s agent, who flew to London today, will discuss the future of the Spanish striker with Chelsea’s hierarchy as Sevilla want to sign him on loan. Another report from Cope states that Atletico Madrid have also entered the race to sign Morata.

It is believed the deal for the 26-year-old would initially be a loan move for the rest of the season, with an option to buy.

Per the report Sevilla are extremely keen on signing Morata to boost their chances of a top four finish in La Liga, and it is quite clear that Maurizio Sarri isn’t a fan of the former Real Madrid and Juventus star as he’s played Eden Hazard up top as the false nine in recent matches. The report claims that Morata is also willing to take a pay cut to join Sevilla.

Morata’s time at Chelsea has been riddled with small injuries and a lack of confidence and form, with the Spanish international scoring 24 goals in 72 appearances in all competitions since arriving from Real Madrid for a fee of up to $89 million in the summer of 2017.

Who could replace Morata? Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson is high on their list but he would cost over $70 million to buy in January, and Sarri is said to favor bringing in Gonzalo Higuain but he is embroiled in a complex deal between Juventus and AC Milan.

Mauro Icardi is said to be their top target but Inter Milan’s Argentine striker would not come cheap.

But his agent and wife, Wanda Nara, has said the following after stating that Icardi signing a new deal at Inter is a “very long way off” as things stand, as he has just just over two years left on his current contract.

“We have a very good relationship with the two biggest clubs in Spain, who are very interested in Mauro. As well as one in France and one in England.”

Intriguing.

The other option for Chelsea is bringing in veteran Higuain on loan, which is something we talked about at Pro Soccer Talk yesterday. Higuain would be the cheapest option and Sarri trusts him from their time working together at Napoli in the past. It appears that both Morata and Olivier Giroud are surplus to requirements for the rest of the season at Chelsea.


In non-Chelsea striker related news, Manchester United have once again been linked with a move for Ivan Perisic.

The Croatian winger has been linked with a move United time and time again over the past 12 months, and the 29-year-old was said to be a transfer target of Jose Mourinho.

According to Tuttosport in Italy, Inter Milan is said to be willing to part with Perisic in January so that they can get the funds together to sign Luka Modric from Real Madrid in the summer. The 33-year-old reigning World Player of the Year has been long linked with a move to Italy’s Serie A.

Do United need Perisic? Probably not anymore.

Anthony Martial is back in the picture, so too is Alexis Sanchez as they can help Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford support Romelu Lukaku from wide areas. The last thing United’s caretaker boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer needs is a new winger, as his creaking defense is in dire need of reinforcements. This move for Perisic, despite him being a fine player, would not make any sense.

Then again, let me know when the transfer window has made much sense in recent years…