Mauro Icardi: A Serie A Expert On Liverpool's Latest Target...
Last weekend in the match between Sampdoria and on AS Roma. Mauro Icardi stood out once again as a striker of genuine promise: out-leaping De Rossi at a corner, his downward header rounded off an empathic 3-1 win for a side that is slowly climbing into the safety of mid-table.Incredibly, the 19-year-old who only made his Serie A debut last November although he did so in stunning fashion with a goal and a man-of-the-match performance in the derby against Genoa.
However, the Argentine really came of age at the turn of the year when he tore Juventus apart in their own stadium, scoring both goals in a 2-0 victory and a demonstration of power and pace that had experienced Italy internationals Andrea Barzagli and Leonardo Bonucci trailing in his wake.
The youngster had only been in the side after new coach Delio Rossi, who had replaced Ciro Ferrara over the winter break, demanded that the strapping six-footer be withdrawn from Argentina’s Under-20 squad for the upcoming South American Championships.
Rossi was without a regular first-choice forward but he saw enough to know that Icardi had an eye for goal similar to Diego Milito who of the modern players he most resembles in movement along the frontline.
However, for older followers of the Italian game he is Gabriel Batistuta reincarnate minus the flowing locks and machine-gun celebrations - that is the preserve of another Argentine ,Pablo Osvaldo - when it comes to finishing.
No nonsense, no moment of doubt, just an unerring finish and as his second goal against Juve’s Gigi Buffon showed this to perfection; hit with unstoppable power, reminiscent of Bati-gol at his most deadly.
Any thoughts that Icardi would drop back to the bench once Maxi Lopez and Nicola Pozzi regained full fitness were dispelled at the end of January when he netted the famous Italian “poker” – four goals – in one match.
Pescara were the victims as their soft defensive under-belly was split wide open by series of sharp, angled runs and unhesitant finishing – two of which came in similar vein: the first when he galloped through the defence to produce an low, angled shot and the second when once again he timed his run to round the keeper and slot home.
The rest of Italy was starting to take notice and immediately Roma were linked in a move, with Osvaldo moving in the opposite direction; Inter alerted the press that the player was in line to join their large South American community in the summer – denied by one and all for now – while Napoli were suddenly eyeing him as a partner or a possible replacement for Cavani.
About to turn 20 on February 19th, Icardi is also in demand at international level. He was born in Rosario – the same city that produced Lionel Messi – but his family moved to the Canary Islands when he was nine where he captured the attention of Barcelona, Real Madrid and if reports are to be believed Liverpool and Arsenal.
Only one of these clubs had Messi to smooth the road to Catalonia, but a glittering youth career did not morph into promotion to the first team; more down to the fact that Barca do not play with an out-and-out striker than lack of ability.
A loan switch to Italy’s Serie B, where Sampdoria then resided, in January 2012 seemed like another step on a long path to becoming a regular first-team player, never mind a bona-fide star in the making.
Holding an Italian passport has held to a tug-of-war between the Azzurri, Argentina and Spain over which country he should represent in the future.
Cesare Prandelli wrote an open letter in La Gazzetta dello Sport imploring Icardi to join up with Mario Balotelli and Stephan El Shaarawy to produce an Italian attack capable of winning the next World Cup while Argentina’s coach Alejandro “Alex” Sabella has claimed that the player will only wear the white and blue, having represented the country at under-17 and 19 level, leaving Spain for once the outsiders.
“I am Argentine,” he has proudly stated, having already rejected a call-up to Italy’s Under-21 squad but if he keeps producing the sort of eye-catching performances we have seen of late then the step-up to a major will not be long in arriving – and no doubt Mancini will be back on his old stomping ground very soon.