Mauro Icardi to PSG, the most underrated signing of the summer?
With Mauro Icardi not considered a part of Antonio Conte’s plans at Inter Milan, the Argentine striker was forced to look elsewhere to get minutes away from the club he used to captain. Recognising the opportunity to snap up one of the most clinical goalscorers in Europe, Paris Saint-Germain duly pounced, signing Icardi on an initial loan that includes an option to buy for €65 million. PSG’s already fearsome frontline is now even more dangerous, with Icardi joining the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappé and Edinson Cavani, as manager Thomas Tuchel has an enviable array of options to choose from.
A centre forward capable of scoring a wide variety of goals, the instinctive Icardi will amplify the threat of the Parisien giants, for he’s a different option to what they already have and one who is brilliant at maximising his opportunities. Aside from being a master from the penalty spot, Icardi’s so good at finishing from a wide variety of scenarios. A real fox in the box, the 26-year-old’s a master at applying finishes to crosses and cutbacks by opening up his body and foot to use the pace on the ball to guide his shots on target. Boasting a sharp back lift and terrific at striking volleys, he quickly gets his shots off while usually being accurate.
Moreover, when it comes to 1v1 finishes with the keeper, he’s shown admirable composure to blend power, placement and finesse when hoping to beat the keeper. In these cases, it’s impressive to note how he remains balanced despite regularly being under pressure to still get enough power and direct his shots on net. Another key weapon of his is his aerial prowess. Showing an innate capacity to rapidly pick up the ball’s trajectory and velocity, this, in combination with his desire to attack deliveries, ensures he’s a real handful. Be it from corners, dead balls or in-play crosses, Icardi’s judgement and timing of his leaps aid him too.
Scoring 124 goals in 219 appearances for Inter Milan, these eye-catching numbers serve as a testament to his goalscoring prowess. Although not a player who’s hugely involved in the build-up, he’s demonstrated that he’s competent when dropping deep to link play. Recognising when the moment’s right to check towards the ball, he’s accompanied this with some neat one and two touches passing to knit together moves. Weighing and measuring his passes cleanly, for the most part, he’s also done a nice job of spreading play and even generating the odd chance for a colleague.
Another reason why he’s effective with his back to goal comes from his solid first touch and ball control, which sees him weave out of trouble by beating an opponent or gain separation while waiting for a viable option to arise. It’s important to note how he protects the ball and often takes his first touch on the move, thus ensuring he’s a pretty tough man to dispossess.
So intelligent and thoughtful with his movement, Icardi‘s an expert at identifying and exploiting openings to take advantage of. To start with his runs in behind, and the former Barcelona youngster’s proven how shrewdly he times, angles and directs his depth runs. So awake to where the gaps are present within the opposition backline and when his teammates are in a position to spot his runs, he tailors his runs beautifully.
Quick to recognise what’s going on around him due to his head scanning, this means he can see if any foes are preoccupied, supporting a colleague or caught ball watching, so he can get the jump on his adversaries. In doing so, this allows him to embark on his runs unimpeded to enhance his chances of latching onto through balls.
Frequently punishing defenders who lose concentration for a split second or fail to track his run, the clinical forward’s smart zig-zagging, clever blindside runs and ability to often stay onside typically sees him hurt his foes if he gets a sniff.
Meanwhile, his ventures into the box are just as impressive, for he knows when to sprint deep inside the box to meet the ball ahead of his marker before applying his finishes. If he notices the defence collapsing towards the six-yard box, he’ll notably hold his run to be an option for a pulled back cutback, where he can enjoy some extra time and space to unleash a shot.
How he creates space for his fellow attackers due to some cunning decoy runs, plus through strategically pinning and drawing opponents away from usable space, only amplifies his worth. A reasonably unheralded aspect of his game, his aptitude here can be an excellent way of manufacturing disconnects in opposing defensive setups for teammates to capitalise on.
By the numbers from his last four seasons, and his 0.59 goals per game from an XG of 0.50, 2.45 shots pg, 0.89 shot assists pg, 4.24 touches inside the box pg and 9.77 completed passes pg at a reasonable 74.5% depicts his quality.
After leaving Inter in disappointing fashion, Icardi’s decision to join PSG offers him a fantastic opportunity to make a fresh start and get back to his best. If he can remain focused, settle in quickly into life at his new home and hit the ground running, Icardi has the potential to be one of the transfers of the summer, for, at the peak of his powers, he’s one of the best forwards in world football.