THE past year has been a strange one for Juventus. Twelve months ago, any supporter of the Bianconeri would’ve struggled to comprehend that their beloved club could sign Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid yet, €112 million later, that is exactly what they did. The decision to replace Coach Max Allegri with former Napoli and Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri would have been similarly baffling, while the acquisition of Arsenal’s out-of-contract midfielder Aaron Ramsey is another surprising deal.
It seems the Old Lady is intent on doing things differently in 2019, perhaps in recognition that her previous approach was not working. She might be dominating Italian football completely after eight consecutive Serie A titles, but it is European glory that Juve seek, the 23 years since they last won the Champions League far too many for a club of Juve’s stature. That obsession with UEFA’s elite competition has led to a desire to evolve and improve, the management team not ruling out any option in pursuit of this all-consuming goal.
With all that in mind, it really should not be surprising that Mauro Icardi is being discussed as a transfer target, his situation at Inter bordering on untenable after yet another tumultuous campaign. Inter stripped their no.9 of the captaincy back in February, replacing him with goalkeeper Samir Handanovic in a brief social media statement.
Now I’m not looking to defend Icardi here but “Spalletti v his own no.10 & Captain” is a movie I’ve seen before & it did not have a good ending pic.twitter.com/FsW0UdCkBB
— Adam Digby (@Adz77) February 13, 2019
It was, as things always seem to be with Icardi, due to an off-the-field issue rather than any footballing reason, his wife and agent Wanda Nara saying far too much about club matters during her weekly role as a weekly on the TV show "Tiki Taka." Having already used her presence on the programme to reveal a number of Inter matters – including that they tried to sell her husband to Juve last summer and that Ivan Perisic's request to join Manchester United in January was due to personal problems – Wanda Nara then discussed Icardi’s contract situation.
She claimed that instead of demanding an extra €5 million a year, he would prefer five decent balls into the box and that Inter defended him more against “nasty” internal leaks. It was too much for new CEO Beppe Marotta and Coach Luciano Spalletti, who instantly made the decision to take the armband away from the Argentina international.
Icardi responded by refusing to play in a Europa League clash with Rapid Wein, which in turn led to Spalletti excluding him from the squad for over a month. Eventually, the striker returned to action, scoring (and getting an assist) in his comeback game against Genoa, the 53 days doing little to blunt his effectiveness.
#Conte. Inter have a new manager. It's none other than #Juventus legend, Antonio #Conte. From club captain to iconic manager in bianconeri colours, Conte has turned his back on the club which gave him life to join arch rivals, FC Internazionale Milano. pic.twitter.com/WMNYMFC322
— Matthew Montesano (@MattMontesano5) June 18, 2019
Spalletti is gone, but his replacement Antonio Conte is much less tolerant than the Tuscan. It seems the former Chelsea boss is not even willing to give Icardi a chance, numerous reports in Italy insisting that he will exclude the 26-year-old from the squad when they gather for pre-season training in Lugano.
There has been talk of interest from Atletico Madrid, Manchester United and Napoli, all of which make more sense than Juventus. It is hard to put aside the bitterness that exists between the two clubs and just how difficult it would be for fans of the Bianconeri to accept seeing Icardi in their beloved colours next season.
By the same token, it is difficult to imagine Inter selling the leading scorer to a club their own supporters love to loathe, while Icardi’s behaviour – or at least that of his wife/agent – is at extreme odds with the level of professionalism Juve expect from their players. But, in 2019, perhaps none of that matters, the presence of Sarri alone enough to justify the belief that literally, anything is possible.
Mauro Icardi is Sarri's favorite striker – He considers the Argentine striker the best in the world and wants him at #Juventus. #Sarri is convinced that he can get 40 goals in a season out of #Icardi. pic.twitter.com/ps1gXfDXcc
— ⚪ ⚫ (@Ronaldo7zone) June 18, 2019
However, even this new approach from Juve should not be enough to convince them to pursue the Rosario native. Over the course of Ronaldo’s career, there is enough evidence to suggest that pairing him with a penalty box finisher is not the best use of the Portuguese megastar, who instead prefers a workmanlike partner he can play off.
That is why Real Madrid were happy to sell Gonzalo Higuain to Napoli back in 2013, Karim Benzema proving to be a much better foil for Ronaldo. The same is true of CR7 at Juve, his interplay with Mario Mandzukic far exceeding any other combination Allegri attempted to use throughout 2018/19.
As Ronaldo has matured, he has become much more of an orthodox no.9 himself, and he is better in that role than pretty much anyone else on the planet. Icardi would simply get in the way of a man who is even better than him at finishing chances in the penalty area, rendering a move for the Inter man a colossal waste of time and money.
Those funds would be much better spent on reinforcing a midfield that has been desperate for an injection of quality for at least two seasons, while the retirement of Andrea Barzagli has also left the Bianconeri looking somewhat thinner in central defence than they would like to be.
In short, even if Wanda Nara’s conduct and the relationship with Inter were non-factors, Mauro Icardi to Juventus makes no sense for him or Juventus. It is not really surprising, but both should spend their summers looking elsewhere for a solution.