Rare Footage Shows Young Mauro Icardi Doing What He Does Best For Barcelona
A meeting between Inter Milan and Barcelona at the Camp Nou will always conjure images of Jose Mourinho celebrating his tactical masterclass by storming the pitch at the final whistle, but for one Inter player, Wednesday’s tilt will serve as an unlikely reminder of things past — it's Mauro Icardi’s “homecoming.”
The Argentine shares the same hometown as compatriot Lionel Messi, Rosario, but like the Barcelona captain, he moved to Spain at a young age and began his youth career at Vecindario of the Canary Islands.
After excelling there and attracting interest from clubs around Europe (including Real Madrid, Arsenal and Liverpool), Icardi elected to join Barcelona, where he turned out for the club’s U-17 and U-19 sides.
Here’s a collection of Icardi’s goals in Catalonia — his incredible predatory instincts in the box are on full display here. The Argentine striker was the top scorer for his side in both of his seasons at Barca, scoring 19 in his first year and 17 in his second, but he’d be on his way to Italy’s Sampdoria shortly after that.
When looking at the numbers that the 25-year-old has posted with Inter, including last season’s return of 29 goals in 34 Serie A matches, it’d be easy to claim that Barcelona made a mistake in letting the striker go, especially since the club is reportedly searching for a replacement for 31-year-old Luis Suarez.
But Icardi’s former agent Abian Morano Santana outlined the wisdom of his move to ESPN FC: “He had serious problems (at Barca): the No. 9 was not an important player. Messi was already in the first team, where Pep Guardiola had just taken over. The role of the center forward changed. There wasn’t space for Mauro. Look at (David) Villa, Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) … even (Thierry) Henry. They were all played out of position. I took the decision to say to Mauro: ‘You have to leave Barcelona.’ He had confidence in me. His parents did, too.
“Even then, he’d been the top scorer in every category. The third year, though, it became much clearer that a change was needed. Oscar Garcia was coach and he started playing a false nine, using Rafinha there. That’s when I took the decision to go to the club to ask to leave.”
It sounds absurd that a midfielder who’s logged a total of 59 LaLiga minutes this campaign somehow contributed to Icardi’s exit, but you can’t argue with the five league titles, five Copa del Reys and two Champions League crowns that have been secured since Icardi took his talents to Italy.
Regardless, the Inter striker will invariably be keen to showcase his talents to the Camp Nou, and with the form he’s currently in (four goals in Serie A, two in the Champions League) don’t be surprised if Barcelona supporters begin clamoring for his return by the game’s end.