MILAN (AP) – Inter Milan pulled the captaincy from Mauro Icardi, who responded by pulling himself out of the team’s next match.
The dispute highlights the tense contract talks that have been going on between the 25-year-old Argentine player and the Italian club.
Icardi’s contract expires in 2021, and his agent-wife Wanda Nara has been particularly outspoken over the past month in defence of her husband.
On Wednesday, amid a seven-match goal drought for Argentina forward, Inter announced that it was stripping the captain’s armband from Icardi and giving it to goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
“It was a difficult and painful decision, we all know his worth,” Inter coach Luciano Spalletti said. “We made it together with all of the components of the club and it was done exclusively for the good of Inter and of the team. There are some things concerning the player that had to be worked out.
“He was disappointed, he was upset. It was difficult to tell him … These things embarrass the team, of which he was captain, and the club.”
Icardi reacted to the decision by telling the club he could not play at Rapid Vienna in the Europa League. He did not travel to Austria with the rest of the squad.
Instead, Icardi was at the club’s training ground in Appiano Gentile, just outside Milan, along with other non-travelling players.
“Mauro was included for the trip to Vienna but didn’t want to be here. After lunch he told us that he didn’t feel up to coming here with us,” Spalletti said. “Obviously we’re upset but there are things around that are disturbing him and the team. Now we have to just think about the match.”
Icardi also posted a picture on social media of him receiving treatment on his right knee, perhaps hoping to explain to Inter fans why he wasn’t going to Austria. Inter’s next match is on Sunday against Sampdoria.
Although Icardi has scored loads of goals – he has 122 in 210 matches for Inter and is the ninth highest scorer in the club’s history – he has also courted controversy.