Is Mauro Icardi Ready to Be a Real Madrid Galactico?

Adam Digby@@Adz77Featured ColumnistDecember 6, 2017

Inter Milan's Argentinian forward Mauro Icardi celebrates after scoring a goal during the Italian Serie A football match between Cagliari and Inter Milan on November 25, 2017 at the Sardegna stadium in Cagliari. / AFP PHOTO / ALBERTO PIZZOLI        (Photo credit should read ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)
ALBERTO PIZZOLI/Getty Images

For Mauro Icardi, life is pretty good right now. On Sunday, he scored against Chievo to not only help Inter Milan move into top spot in the Serie A table but also become the league's leading scorer.

Simultaneously, the Nerazzurri skipper fired himself into the club's top 10 marksmen of all time, with his tally of 94 goals pushing him into exalted company as he joined the likes of Sandro Mazzola and Christian Vieri.

"I have no words to describe this moment…" Icardi wrote on Instagram (h/t Football Italia). "It's a beautiful moment that represents hard work and sacrifice over all these years at Inter. Today, in my fifth season in Milan, I have entered the history of this club as one of the top 10 scorers of all time. Thanks to all of you for the support you give me every day."

Those same supporters have little doubt he will one day surpass those legendary figures ahead of him, as Nima Tavallaey—the founder of fan site SempreInter.com—explained to Bleacher Report.

"He's the most lethal striker I've seen since Filippo Inzaghi's glory days, and if he continues in this fashion he's en route to being Inter's all-time leading goalscorer," the Calciomercato.com columnist said.

"It's important to remember that Icardi has managed to score consistently at Inter during some turbulent years but now, when the tide is turning and better players are coming in to feed him balls as well as creating space for him, there's no limit to how much he can potentially score."

The problem for Inter, though, is that people are starting to notice. Due to their repeated failure to qualify for the UEFA Champions League and a string of managers ignoring him when selecting squads for the Argentina national team, his impact at the San Siro has gone widely unnoticed outside Italy.

But, as Tavallaey noted, the Nerazzurri are looking like contenders once again, while the arrival of Jorge Sampaoli as Argentina coach has seen Icardi return to the fold after a three-year absence.

Perhaps the most surprising recognition of his talent has come from Real Madrid, with Marca (h/t Football Espana) reporting the Liga giants would be willing to meet the €110 million buyout fee in Icardi's contract.

There have, unsurprisingly, been some extremely vocal reactions to that news.

"His release clause?" former Inter president Massimo Moratti said in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Football Italia). "The club will evaluate it, but I think it needs to be raised. It's true that he wants to stay at Inter, but we can't spend every summer worrying…"

The player's wife and agent, Wanda Nara, did discuss raising it significantly but managed only to fuel the talk even more.

"Mauro is an important player and there are top clubs who have been following him for a while," she told Corriere dello Sport (h/t Gianluca Di Marzio's website). "It's appropriate that a striker like that, one of the most important No. 9s in the world, has great clubs interested in him and that value him for what he's worth. Inter and he should be proud of that."

"Will he join another club?" she added. "It's hard to say because in football you never know what will happen. Now he's focused on winning at Inter. Is he worth his €110 million clause? More! At least €200 million."

Unsurprisingly, Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio moved quickly to dismiss the story.

"With Icardi's contract, it's not an issue of release clauses, it's about what he wants to be, and he wants to be important for Inter," he told Mediaset Premium (h/t FourFourTwo).

"He wants to stay here for a long time and win. We've never moved from that position either. It might seem like Icardi is a revelation as a man and a captain, but it's no surprise for us. We built a project around him some time ago and he gives back a great deal."

When it comes to asking whether the player is ready to make the leap to a club such as Real Madrid, it is his improvement both on and off the pitch that cannot be understated. For years, he was known for little more than his off-field life, but that has changed in recent seasons, to the point where he has to be legitimately considered as one of the most lethal strikers in the world.

Dating back to the start of the 2014/15 campaign, he has bagged a staggering 78 goals in just 118 Serie A appearances, doing so with a ludicrously low number of attempts on goal. According to figures taken from WhoScored.com, no fewer than seven players have taken more shots per 90 minutes than him this term, yet he remains the league's leading scorer.

Historically, the numbers are even more startling; he hit the back of the net 24 times in 2016/17 despite an incredible 23 players around Serie A recording more shots per 90 minutes than his average of 3.2.

Contrast that with the free-flowing chances created by Real Madrid where WhoScored show four players—Cristiano Ronaldo, Borja Mayoral, Marco Asensio and Gareth Bale—have had more chances than Icardi this term. Imagine how often such a deadly player would be on the score sheet at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Now vastly more mature than before, his leadership and conduct as Inter captain would provide the perfect preparation for dealing with the pressures that come with playing for one of Europe’s biggest clubs.

Spanish football expert David Cartlidge is certain the Argentina international would be a smart acquisition for Los Merengues.

"Icardi would be an ideal solution for the 'new' Real Madrid because, while Karim Benzema's role as a workhorse has been identified as being important in the past, an increased focus is on the midfield and support players which means the need for a striker that sacrifices himself is no longer required,” he told Bleacher Report.

"Icardi's ability to time his movement perfectly and pounce on chances would be ideal, as Real have honestly lacked a player of his ilk since Ruud van Nistelrooy left the club."

"They lack someone who doesn't second-guess in front of goal and need a killer, a pure shark in front of goal," Cartlidge continued. "Icardi is clearly confident in his own ability and doesn't need an arm around the shoulder. Benzema does. And that is a problem. Icardi is the superstar striker Real Madrid have lacked for years."

Yet the man himself insists he is content to remain in Italy.

"Everything's going well at the minute, and I hope to keep going like this until the end of the season," Icardi said in an interview with Telefe (h/t Football Italia). "Real Madrid? My family are happy in Italy. We're first and I'm top scorer. What more could I ask for?"

Should Inter continue to fall short of the Champions League, a chance to test himself against the best might prove tempting, and there is surely no doubt the 24-year-old would continue to do what he does best.

Icardi simply scores goals—lots of goals—and that is a currency accepted all over the world.