Mauro Icardi’s Former Agent Reveals Juventus & Napoli Spurned Chance to Sign Ace for Just €400k

Mauro Icardi’s former agent has revealed that both Juventus and Napoli turned down the chance to sign the talented forward for just €400k, during his time in Barcelona’s youth academy. 

The Argentine international is now a Serie A superstar, and has netted 80 goals in just 133 Serie A appearances for his current side Internazionale.

In an interview with Il Secolo XIX, via ItaSportPress, former agent Nunzio Marchione, revealed that the two Serie A giants turned up their noses at the opportunity to bag Icardi during his days as a bright prospect at Barcelona.

SSC Napoli v FC Internazionale - Serie A

“Riccardo Pecini [Sampdoria’s youth academy chief] was very clever in getting him after both Juventus and Napoli, who had moved on him before, had rejected him,” Marchione said.

Icardi eventually left Catalonia for Sampdoria for just €400k, before switching to Inter after his first season in Italy.

What struck me about Icardi? The fact that, at age 15, he was already mature and ready to live away from home,” Marchione added. “And he had that innate ability to move half a second before the defender to place himself where he was needed. You could see he was phenomenal.”

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Marchione also revealed that the then Barcelona starlet has always been an Nerazzurri at heart and actually cheered Inter’s famous victory over his employers on the way to a famous treble in 2010.

“He dreamt of playing for Inter because he had grown up with a Zanetti poster, and I remember how happy we were when we celebrated the semi-final win at the Camp Nou,” Marchione added. “[Gerard] Deulofeu was next to us, and he couldn’t understand why we were celebrating”.

Icardi has gone from strength to strength since leaving Sampdoria to join the club of his boyhood dreams in 2013, scoring over 20 goals in a season twice in his five year spell at San Siro.

The 24-year-old still has a long career ahead of him, and it remains to be seen whether the giants of European football will soon come calling for the services of the talented Argentine.

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Inter Milan Boss Luciano Spalletti Not Getting Carried Away Despite Impressive Start to Season

Inter Milan manager Luciano Spalletti has played down the chances of his side finishing the Serie A season as champions, despite their impressive early season form, according to the Daily Mail.

Since taking charge of the ‘Nerazzurri’ this summer, following his brief stint at AS Roma, Spalletti has guided Inter to second in the Serie A, remaining undefeated in the process. 

Spalletti however is keen to quash any talk of Inter winning their first Scudetto since 2010, stating: “We can’t even let the comments made up about us affect us.

“We know our strengths and weaknesses well; when you want to stop asking me about the Scudetto, it means that we can really compete for that objective.”

SSC Napoli v FC Internazionale - Serie A

A recent 0-0 with table-toppers Napoli and a stunning 3-2 victory against local rivals AC Milan has only intensified the notion that Inter could seriously challenge serial winners Juventus, and along with Napoli, turn the usual Serie A procession into a genuine title race.

On that point, Spalletti continued, saying: “We can’t have doubts about the road to follow; we need to make steps forward in order to reach our objectives.

“We want to be more certain in ourselves. We need to continue a step at a time, we know where we want to end up.”

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Inter could find themselves top of Serie A for a brief period, as they face Sampdoria on Tuesday while Napoli will reclaim top spot with a victory against Genoa 24 hours later.

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Picking the Best Potential Inter Starting Lineup to Face Sampdoria on Tuesday

Inter will aim to continue their strong start to the Serie A season, when Sampdoria visit San Siro on Tuesday night.

Luciano Spalletti’s men remain two points behind league leaders Napoli after the weekend’s stalemate.

Sampdoria provide a different challenge and are in good form, after winning three of their last four, including a 2-0 victory over Inter’s rivals AC Milan.

Here’s how Spalletti could line up his side for Tuesday’s Serie A clash.

Goalkeeper

  • Handanovic

    Handanovic1

His cousin Jasmin may have let seven in against Liverpool for Maribor last week, but Samir Handanovic has conceded just five league goals​ this season and will of course continue in goal.

Defence

  • D'Ambrosio

    D’Ambrosio33

  • Škriniar

    Škriniar37

  • Miranda

    Miranda25

  • Nagatomo

    Nagatomo55

Inter were brilliant defensively on Saturday to stop Napoli’s winning start to the season, so it’s very likely to be the same back four again.

They maintain the joint best defensive record in the division (along with Napoli) and it’s thanks to the form of the likes of new man Milan Skriniar. 

Midfield

  • Vecino

    Vecino6

  • Valero

    Valero20

  • Gagliardini

    Gagliardini5

Inter were unlucky not to knick a winner at Napoli on Saturday, and a strong midfield display means the same trio against Sampdoria is likely. 

While there were fewer eye-catching arrivals through the blue door at San Siro in the summer, Borja Valero and Matias Vecino have already proved shrewd acquisitions. 

The likes of Joao Mario and Marcelo Brozovic can be called on from the bench depending on how the match goes​, and Inter have no injury or suspension issues in this area.

Forwards

  • Candreva

    Candreva87

  • Icardi

    Icardi9

  • Perisic

    Perisic44

​Club captain Mauro Icardi is in remarkable form at the moment, and will of course lead the line. 

Ivan Perisic and Antonio Candreva will keep their places on the wings after some impressive displays from this front three so far this season.

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Arsenal and Inter Milan to Battle for Wantaway Star Arturo Vidal

Arsenal are looking towards another Chilean star to strengthen the mettle of their midfield. 

Arturo Vidal is on Arsenal’s radar as a potential transfer if the reports regarding his future at Bayern Munich rings true.

Vidal’s future at Bayern has been called into question, with Tuttosport (via ​Daily Mirror) suggesting that he maybe in line to leave the German giants.

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Bayern seem to be favouring towards a more younger intake in their squad, with the club signing 23-year-old Corentin Tolisso from Lyon, as well as 27-year-old former TSG Hoffenheim playmaker Sebastian Rudy.

However, Arsenal won’t be the sole suitor for his signature, as Inter Milan have been leading this Vidal race since last summer.

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The Italian side tried bring in the ex-Juventus 30-year-old back to the Serie A last summer, and will look to return to the foray for his signature. 

His signature for Inter could be indicative enough to suggest that the Italian club are ready to return to the forefront of Italian football, after spending many seasons on the outside.

Although, Arsenal’s intention for moving in on Vidal could signal a progressive attempt to keep Alexis Sanchez from walking out the door.

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Inter have not yet managed to convince Bayern to sell Vidal, but are set to push hard to secure a deal, plotting an offer between £45m and £54m in force Bayern’s hand.

The Chilean midfielder has won two successive Bundesliga titles with Bayern.

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Napoli 0-0 Inter Milan: Sarri’s Men See Title Chances Drop after Goalless Draw

Inter Milan put a stop to Napoli’s so far impeccable title race by tieing down the home team to a disappointing 0-0 match. 

The San Paolo fans tasted the bitterness of drawing for the first time this year, as Napoli’s league record of 13 matches won in a row ended due to a tenacious Inter, who fought hard against the Serie A leaders.

The match itself does not mean any big change in the dynamics of the league table, as both teams have only one more point: Napoli still lead with 25 points, followed by the Milan side at 23, who Lazio and Juventus are shortly behind, will be looking to narrow the gap. 

The home team undoubtedly dominated the first half of the game, with the lethal attacking trio made by Insigne, Callejon and Mertens threatening Inter’s goal on several occasions. The Nerazzuri managed to keep their nerves down and built up a few chances of their own by starting out from the back, but barely kept up with Napoli’s pace. 

As the clock marked 20 minutes, Napoli had a double chance that was only saved by the heroics of Handanovic. Inter’s defence was caught off-guard when Callejon took the chance to curl the ball towards the goal, but the historic Nerazzurro goalkeeper was there to stop him. He was equally ready to save the ball once it bounced back on Mertens’ feet.

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On the half-hour mark, Insigne went again dangerously close to breaking the deadlock, as he received a magnificent cross from Hamsik who lifted the ball that dropped on Insigne’s head. However, the striker’s header was not strong enough to break Handavnovic’s goal, who saved it easily. 

Inter had their chance too. Towards the end of the first half, Perisic spotted Borja Valero alone on the right-hand side of the box, and served him a magnificent cross. He promptly thumped the ball straight to Reina’s goal, but Napoli’s stopper saved it and sent it above the bar. 

The second half opened up with a different pace. Inter came back from the break with a more proactive mentality, and got the first chance. Profiting from a defence’s disattention, Vecino danced alone in the box until he placed himself on the right side of the goal. His beautiful lob went inches from the goal line, but Albiol brilliantly headed it out before it was too late. 

Napoli fought back again with the likes of Hamsik and Callejon, who exchanged the ball as they approached the box. The Slovak pounded the ball with strength, however he missed the goal by inches. 

SSC Napoli v FC Internazionale - Serie A

The rhythms were slightly lower during the ending 20 minutes, until Insigne almost caught Handanovic by surprise and shot from the edge of the box. The ball went past the bar. 

Napoli could not accept not to win, and sieged Inter’s box endlessly in the closing minutes. Newly entered Zielinksi put probably one of the biggest threats to the away team by thumping a stunner from the edge of the box. It would have been an amazing goal, had Handanovic intervened and pushed the ball away with an honourable safe. 

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Inter’s keeper was the absolute best player of his side. He made over five extremely hard saves, securing the result for his boys. As the clock hit the 90-minute mark, he denied Mertens the joy to make his fans proud by bouncing back his marvellous shot.  

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Gabigol’s Agent Claims He Needs More Chances to Play at Benfica

Gabigol has recently joined Portuguese club Benfica on a loan from Inter Milan with an option to buy for €25m, but has since failed to earn a place in the starting XI. 

In the first part of the season, the Brazilian striker, who did not manage to spark in Serie A last year either, has only scored once in four appearances and is struggling to improve. 

His agent Wagner Ribeiro has spoken about the subject to UOL Esporte in Brazil: “Lisbon is good for him, he’s happy and that’s all that matters.

“He has a lot of potentials to prove yet, but needs consistency. He can’t play one game and then be on the bench for the next two or three.”

He continued, “A football player is like an aeroplane, he needs to build momentum and stay in the air. When Gabigol left Brazil, he had won the Olympics, was a first choice for Santos and had been called up by Tite for the senior Brazil squad.”

His time at Inter proved to underwhelming, as Gabigol contended his role with the likes of Mauro Icardi and Eder. “He went to Italy, but did not have a chance to play,” Riberio said, “How was he supposed to prove his talent if he wasn’t playing? This is why we agreed with the Inter directors that it was best to send him out on loan for regular playing time.

“There were several clubs who were interested in Spain, Portugal and France. We chose Benfica, one of the three main clubs in Portugal, who are in the Champions League.Whether or not he remains at Benfica depends on what happens from now onwards.”

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Picking a Combined XI of Inter & Napoli Players Ahead of Saturday’s Crunch Serie A Clash

Saturday sees a clash of the top two over in Italy, as league leaders Napoli host Internazionale in what is set up to be a brilliant game.

Both sides have flown out of the traps this season, and have some excellent players in their ranks.

The form of star men Mauro Icardi and Dries Mertens makes it simply impossible to choose between the two and therefore dictates that a combined XI needs a formation of 4-4-2, but who are the supporting cast.

12. GK: Samir Handanovic – Inter

There hasn’t been much to separate Samir Handanovic and Pepe Reina so far this season – both keepers have been ever-presents and conceded just five goals apiece.

Handanovic sneaks in on the basis of being the slightly better keeper overall. The Slovenian is a reliable shot stopper, and has largely been underrated during his time at Inter. 

11. RB: Elseid Hysaj – Napoli

Elseid Hysaj is an integral part of Napoli’s attack-minded side. He is always keen to take the game to the opposition by bombing forward, and can often be the danger man teams forget about as they focus on the likes of Jose Callejon, Dries Mertens and Lorenzo Insigne.

The Albanian makes it on over Danilo D’Ambrosio, who has performed reasonably for Inter this season.

10. CB: Miranda – Inter

Inter Milan’s Brazilian defender is strong as an ox, and reads the game impressively, despite his lack of pace and technique.

The star, formerly of Atletico Madrid, can be a formidable opponent when on his game and would make up a frightening partnership with the next man on the list if they ever played for the same team.

9. CB – Kalidou Koulibaly – Napoli

Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly is highly-sought after and for good reason – he is definitely one of the best defenders in Serie A.

The man-mountain is probably even stronger than Miranda and unlike his hypothetical teammate is pretty quick for his size, making him a pain to get past.

He is also particularly threatening from set pieces, so it’s little wonder the likes of Liverpool and Chelsea have been linked with his name in the past.

8. LB: Faouzi Ghoulam – Napoli

Faouzi Ghoulam is arguably the best left-back in Serie A at the moment, and he could be leaving soon if Napoli don’t pull something out of the bag.

The Algerian is out of contract next summer, meaning he could be poached in January in a cut-price deal, or for free on expiry of his current deal.

If he does leave, then whoever gets him is snagging an utter bargain – Ghoulam is a superb crosser of the ball and is particularly attack-minded, as demonstrated most recently against Manchester City in the Champions League. He has four goals in Serie A already this season.

7. RM: Lorenzo Insigne – Napoli

Lorenzo Insigne has become one of Napoli’s most important players under Maurizio Sarri – the diminutive forward has that low centre of gravity and rapid dribbling that makes defending against him a complete nightmare.

He suits their brand of football perfectly and is fantastic to watch when in full flow.

6. CM: Matias Vecino – Inter Milan

Matias Vecino has been quietly impressive for Inter since his summer move from Fiorentina.

The Uruguayan is smooth operator in midfield – tidy in possession, recycling it well, and recently helped the Nerazzurri beat Roma at the Stade Olimpico for the first time in nine years.

5. CM: Marek Hamsik – Napoli

Marek Hamsik has been one of the apex attacking midfielders for several years and still has quality in abundance. He is arguably still Napoli’s main man and is one of their most creative sparks.

The Slovakian can thread passes through the eye of a needle and possesses a wicked shot from distance in his arsenal.

4. LM: Ivan Perisic – Inter Milan

Ivan Perisic is a seriously underrated winger. The Croatian was maligned over the summer for his links to Manchester United, but he is perhaps showing what they are missing.

He has hit four goals and three assists and has played every minute of every game so far, signalling his importance to Inter’s cause.

He is skilful, unpredictable and industrious, and has a strong weak foot which sets him apart from your average winger.

3. ST: Mauro Icardi – Inter Milan

Inter’s talisman gained plaudits recently for his fabulous hat-trick against rivals AC Milan, but in truth, Mauro Icardi has been going under the radar for a while now.

The Nerazurri captain is super clinical, whether that be with his right foot, left foot, head or instinctively, and his goal record absolutely speaks for itself. A top 10 striker.

2. ST: Dries Mertens – Napoli

Napoli’s answer to Icardi comes in the form of Dries Mertens, who has emerged as  Partenopei’s main danger man over the past year.

The 30-year-old has made a seamless transition into the role of central striker as a result of Arkadiusz Milik’s injury troubles and Gonzalo Higuain’s departure. Last season he scored an incredible 28 league goals and he is off to a flying start this campaign after notching seven in eight.

1. Manager: Maurizio Sarri – Napoli

Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli really do play some scintillating football, which is highlighted by their 31 goals in all competitions already this season.

The studious coach ran Juventus close to the league title last season, and many are tipping him to go all the way this time around.

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Napoli vs Inter Preview: Classic Encounter, Key Battles, Team News & More

​Saturday brings a very tasty clash in Serie A between the teams in first and second place.

League leaders Napoli have got everybody talking this season with their attacking brand of football under Maurizio Sarri, which is a continuation from their 2016/17 campaign.

AS Roma v SSC Napoli - Serie A

They have surged to the top of the table with eight wins out of eight, scoring 26 goals and conceding just five, and the feeling is that they could genuinely end Juventus’ domestic dominance come May.

Inter are going pretty well themselves and are just two points behind their opponents, and they will feel confident of becoming the first team to take points off Napoli in Serie A this season.

Luciano Spalletti has done a terrific job so far since his summer arrival from Roma, and there have been whispers that Inter too could challenge for glory under his guidance this season.

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It’s been a strong start for both teams and it promises to be a fantastic game, one that the wounded Juventus will no doubt be keen to see end in a draw.


Classic Encounter

Napoli 4-2 Inter (December 2013)

Napoli recorded a great result over their opponents a few seasons ago at Stadio San Paolo,  winning 4-2.

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Goals from Gonzalo Higuain, Dries Mertens, Blerim Dzemaili and Jose Callejon handed them the three points and condemned 10-man Inter to their second defeat of the season. 

It could have been and even sweeter margin of victory but Goran Pandev failed to convert from the penalty spot.


Key Battles

Dries Mertens vs Miranda

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The Belgian is hot right now, and will give Miranda a lot to think about on Saturday night. 

Mertens’ movement is so tricky to deal with, and the Brazilian will need to be on his game to stop him from scoring.

Mauro Icardi vs Kalidou Koulibaly

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Essentially, this is the same battle as the previous one – Icardi is to Mertens what Koulibaly is to Miranda. The Argentine isn’t as nippy as Mertens but certainly knows just where to be in order to score goals. He will be a tough opponent for Koulibaly, who has been impressive thus far.


Team News

Manchester City v SSC Napoli - UEFA Champions League

Sarri will have the majority of his players to choose from for the game, but he is currently sweating on the fitness of Lorenzo Insigne, who hobbled off against Manchester City in midweek. 

Arkadiusz Milik remains a long-term absentee, as does Lorenzo Tonelli.

Benevento Calcio v FC Internazionale - Serie A

Marcelo Brozovic isn’t ready to come back from his calf injury, but Davide Santon and Joao Cancelo could both be available.

Predicted Napoli XI: Reina, Hysaj, Koulibaly, Albiol, Ghoulam, Hamsik, Allan, Diawara, Callejon, Mertens, Insigne.

Predicted Inter XI: Handanovic, D’Ambrosio, Miranda, Skriniar, Nagatomo, Vecino, Gagliardini, Candreva, Valero, Perisic, Icardi.


Prediction

Inter will try to neutralise the attacking threat of Napoli and catch them on the break. Their possession game has been sublime so far this season and Inter will be aiming to disrupt that. 

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Sarri will implore his side to fly out of the traps, something they were prevented from doing in midweek by Manchester City. Whatever happens, it should be a fascinating game.

Prediction: Napoli 2-2 Inter

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Picking the Best Potential Line Up for Inter to Face Napoli on Sunday

​Inter have the chance to lay down a marker to their title rivals by toppling the mightily impressive Napoli on Saturday.

The Nerazurri ran out 3-2 winners over rivals AC Milan last weekend, and there likely won’t be too many changes to a winning side…

Goalkeeper

  • Handanovic

    Handanovic1

​Samir Handanovic is the undisputed number one at Inter and will keep his place.

Defence

  • D'Ambrosio

    D’Ambrosio33

  • Miranda

    Miranda25

  • Škriniar

    Škriniar37

  • Nagatomo

    Nagatomo55

​Danilo D’Ambrosio and Yuto Nagatomo should be set to keep their positions as the full-backs. The former has started every Serie A match so far, and Nagatomo has been selected for the previous two.

At centre-half, Miranda and Milan Skriniar have been ever-presents in the Italian top flight this season, and have been solid enough to have only conceded five goals so far.

Midfield

​Inter are unlikely to change their midfield too much after their result in the derby. The impressive Antonio Candreva will provide pace and width, and Ivan Perisic crossing and industry.

Matias Vecino has been in decent form since his summer move to San Siro and could again partner Roberto Gagliardini in defensive midfield. Gagliardini came in for the injured Marcelo Brozovic against Milan and should keep his place.

Borja Valero will support Mauro Icardi in the number 10 role.

Forwards

  • Icardi

    Icardi9

​Icardi wowed last weekend with his hat-trick against AC Milan, but he has been in impressive form for most of the season so far.

Inter’s talisman should take up a lone striker’s role once more and seek to gobble up any opportunities that come his way on Saturday – with Napoli’s goalscoring exploits of late it will be crucial for him to be take even the half-chances.

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West Ham Forward Marko Arnautovic Reveals Why He Still Has Jose Mourinho’s Watch

​West Ham forward Marko Arnautovic has revealed that Jose Mourinho once presented him with his watch, after the Austrian arrived for training five hours early.

The gesture reportedly happened when Arnautovic was at loan at Internazioanle from FC Twente back during the 2009/10 season, Mourinho’s last in charge of the San Siro club.

Arnautovic claimed in an interview with the ​Daily Mail that he was desperate to avoid a telling off from Mourinho following a succession of punctuality issues during a pre-season tour of Abu Dhabi.

The Austrian striker claimed: “We were at Abu Dhabi for pre-season with Inter in 2009. I overslept for Breakfast. Late number one.

“Then there was the team meeting. The hotel was huge and my room was on the 75th floor. I am waiting for the lift and I press and I press and still I have seven minutes so I am okay. But then I still didn’t make it. Disaster. Number two.

“Then, before we meet for the game, it was happening again and I was like: ‘He is going to kill me’. So then we fought a little bit and I was out of the team that day, training on my own.”

Inter Milan's Portuguese coach Jose Mour

It appears that string of incidents had an effect on Arnautovic in the aftermath of the pre-season tour, and in his desperation to avoid another confrontation with Mourinho, the Austrian claims he arrived at Inter’s training ground for a morning training session, rather than the scheduled afternoon one.

“Back in Milan, I thought we were training in the morning and I went in just perfect. There were no cars there. We were actually training in the afternoon that day!” he revealed.

“Mourinho is there with his staff and he stands up and starts applauding and laughing. He said: ‘You are my man. You come here five hours before training. I love you! Here, take my watch’. I still have that watch in my house.”

Despite his dedication to impressing Mourinho, Arnautovic would make just three appearances for Inter, who declined to take up a permanent deal on the Austrian, with Mourinho describing him as ‘a fantastic person. with the attitude of a child.’

Instead, Anrautovic moved to Werder Bremen, where he spent three seasons before moving to Stoke in 2013, where he remained until this summer, when West Ham paid a club record £20m to bring him to the London Stadium.

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Arnautovic’s watch hasn’t provided him with much luck yet at his new club, and he has failed to find the net in six outings.

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