Inter Milan must withstand growing pressure to part with sought-after striker Mauro Icardi, or risk throwing away their Scudetto hopes.
Icardi was the Serie A joint-top goalscorer last season on 22 goals, despite featuring within an under-achieving team that disappointingly languished in eighth position.
Matters have turned around markedly under returnee coach Roberto Mancini, who is finally reaping the rewards for 12 months of solid hard work throughout a turbulent second spell in charge, taking Inter to the top of the league after 13 matches.
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The former Manchester City boss watched on as his side recorded a fourth clean sheet in a row for the first time since 2009 during a 4-0 home victory over Frosinone last weekend, including a routine tap-in from Icardi.
It was also the first time Inter had scored more than once in a game since their defeat of Carpi at the end of August, thrusting greater onus upon the predatory front-man to make regular telling contributions.
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Inter have failed to field the same starting line-up in any of their 13 fixtures to date, making it all-the-more remarkable that Mancini’s men sit atop the standings one-third of the way through proceedings.
Even Icardi has been a victim of that squad-wide rotation policy, when he was forced to look on from the bench as the Nerazzurri beat title rivals AS Roma in late October.
He also missed the aforementioned Carpi clash through injury, but has still managed four strikes from 11 outings.
Furthermore, the Rosario-born centre forward has been admirably efficient in front of goal, with his quartet coming from just 1.6 shots per game. In comparison, he ended 2014-15 with a 3.4 shots-per-match ratio.
The Argentine was responsible for six goals from his opening 11 Serie A appearances last term, which suggests that he’ll comfortably emulate past successes if afforded frequent shooting opportunities.
His continued good form has several European clubs salivating over the prospect of securing Icardi’s services.
It’s highly unlikely that Inter Milan will allow such an integral performer to leave for a comparatively paltry amount, with the existence of a contract running until 2019 neatly tucked away in his back pocket.
Icardi also sports the captain’s armband at the tender age of 22 in ode to his talismanic qualities, plus there’s the fact that he has scored a quarter of Inter’s goals in 2015-16. His importance to the cause cannot be overstated.
Should a substantially larger bid – perhaps double the amount mentioned – was to materialise in January, it may prove tempting for the Milanese giants to accept, especially in light of Mancini’s ongoing rebuilding project.
However, to sell star striker Icardi this winter would be a bitter pill to swallow for Inter fans, who have waited patiently for another league crown to arrive over five years since their last, and are beginning to believe such an accomplishment is within touching distance.
Without his presence, though, it will be very difficult to turn those dreams into reality.
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