Icardi: Inter renewal still far away

The Giuseppe Meazza side are keen to extend the striker’s current deal, but he has made it clear there is no agreement just yet

Mauro Icardi has admitted that he is not close to a renewing his contract with Inter at the moment.

The Argentine attacker has developed into a key player at the Giuseppe Meazza side since joining them from Sampdoria in the summer of 2013 and they are keen to reward the 22-year-old for his sublime performances with a new and improved deal.

Sporting director Piero Ausilio recently revealed that Inter have already sat down with Icardi’s agent, Abian Morano, a number of times to hold talks and a deal seemed imminent.

However, Icardi has made it clear there are still plenty of details that need ironed out first.

“I don’t know about my renewal. There are still a lot of things that need sorted,” Icardi told reporters.

General director Marco Fassone, meanwhile, is hopeful an agreement will be reached in the not too distant future.

“There have a number of meetings. We have expressed our desire to renew his deal and to hold on to him,” Fassone added.

“I believe that there’s also a desire to extend on Icardi’s part and that there is a will to wrap things up shortly.”

The striker has already netted 15 goals in 25 Serie A appearances so far in 2014-15 and his contract runs until June 2018.

Europa League or Coppa Italia? That's like choosing between parents! – Benitez

The Spaniard attaches equal importance to both competitions and remains upbeat about Napoli’s prospects despite a 2-2 Serie A draw at home to Inter

Napoli boss Rafael Benitez says he will not prioritise the Europa League over the Coppa Italia, claiming that choosing between the two would be like trying to decide whether one loves their mother or father more.

The Coppa Italia holders remain on course to defend their title after claiming a 1-1 draw in the first leg of their semi-final clash with Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico in midweek.

However, the Partenopei are also through to the last 16 of the Europa League, where they will face Dynamo Moscow, whom they host at the San Paolo on Thursday.

Winning the continental competition would secure Champions League qualification for Napoli, who currently sit third in Serie A, but Benitez is refusing to rank the tournament above the Coppa Italia as his side’s season reaches a pivotal point.

“I will not choose between the two – it is like asking if you love your mother or father more,” he told Mediaset.

Napoli’s hopes of automatic qualification for next season’s Champions League took a blow on Sunday, as they missed the chance to close to within two points of second-placed Roma by drawing 2-2 at home to Inter.

Benitez’s men were two goals up after 63 minutes thanks to strikes from Marek Hamsik and Gonzalo Higuain but were pegged back by late efforts from Rodrigo Palacio and Mauro Icardi, who netted with a late penalty.

“I am not annoyed,” the coach added. “We faced a great team like Inter and the team turned in a great performance.

“We gave everything and created so much but we just failed to manage the situation properly in the final minutes. Our goal must be to continue playing like this and creating so many goalscoring chances.

“Napoli pleased me but Inter have great qualities too and we made a mistake with the penalty.”

Benitez also defended his decision to leave in-form forward Manolo Gabbiadini on the bench, claiming the January signing needed a rest.

“He must also adapt to our schedule but that is normal given he came from Sampdoria, who were only playing once a week,” the Spaniard stated.

Mancini: Icardi is a brave boy!

The Argentine striker looked like the coolest man at the San Paolo as he scooped home a spot-kick that earned Inter a last-gasp 2-2 draw at Napoli

Inter boss Roberto Mancini hailed Mauro Icardi’s bravery after the striker’s Panenka penalty against Napoli, admitting that he has never even attempted such a spot-kick.

The Nerazzurri found themselves two goals down after just over an hour of play at the San Paolo, with Marek Hamsik having opened the scoring with a header before Gonzalo Higuain doubled the hosts’ advantage with a terrific, curling effort.

However, Rodrigo Palacio pulled one goal back for Inter before Henrique hauled down Fredy Guarin in the area with just three minutes remaining and the defender was dismissed for his second bookable offence.

Despite the high-pressure nature of the situation, Icardi calmly dinked home the subsequent penalty to earn Inter an unlikely draw.

“Icardi is a brave boy and that is part of his strength,” Mancini told Sky Sport Italia.

“I don’t think I’ve ever even tried a penalty like this. Luckily, though, I didn’t see it live, as I wasn’t watching at the time!”

However, despite his joy at snatching a point at the death, Mancini was once again perturbed by his side’s wastefulness in possession.

“We were playing against a Napoli side that have great attackers and it is normal to concede something,” he said.

“However, the problem is that we are conceding when we have the ball, giving it away to a side that cannot wait to go on the counterattack.

“Yet we were 2-0 down and couldn’t understand why. I was happy with everyone’s performance but we still gave the ball away too easily.”

Napoli 2-2 Inter: Icardi's cheeky penalty punishes profligate Partenopei

Marek Hamsik and Gonzalo Higuain looked to have sealed victory for the hosts but Rodrigo Palacio halved the deficit before his fellow Argentine chipped home a late spot-kick

Mauro Icardi’s late penalty earned Inter a 2-2 draw at 10-man Napoli, as Rafael Benitez’s men spurned a two-goal lead and the chance to close the gap on second-placed Roma.

The Giallorossi’s draw with Chievo earlier on Sunday paved the way for the Partenopei to move within two points of the automatic Champions League places in the clash at the San Paolo.

It appeared as though that would be the case, as Marek Hamsik’s 51st-minute header and a superb long-range strike from Gonzalo Higuain put Napoli deservedly in control.

However, the visitors hit back via Rodrigo Palacio with 18 minutes remaining and the turnaround was completed in the 87th minute courtesy of Icardi’s chipped penalty, after Henrique had received his second yellow card for a tug on Fredy Guarin.

Ultimately, Napoli coach Benitez – who had an unhappy spell as Inter boss between June and December 2010 – was left to rue a series of missed first-half chances, with the usually clinical Higuain particularly wasteful.

A draw changes little for either side in terms of their league standing, with Inter six points adrift of the Europa League places.

The home side started well and Higuain worked half a yard on the edge of the box before forcing a smart one-handed save from Samir Handanovic.

The lively Higuain was sent clear by Hamsik down the right in the 13th minute, but the angle proved too tight and he dragged his shot wide of the far post.

Higuain then saw a tame chip palmed away by Handanovic before the Argentina international missed the best chance of the match in the 31st minute.

Hamsik played in Dries Mertens down the left and his cross to the back post just needed Higuain to side-foot home the simple volley, but he somehow blazed wide.

The breakthrough finally came six minutes into the second half.

Jose Callejon picked out Henrique’s overlap on the right flank and the full-back’s pinpoint cross was headed home nonchalantly by Hamsik.

The goal seemed to force Inter into action as first Icardi glanced a header wide from Xherdan Shaqiri’s cross, before the latter’s whipped corner was headed over the crossbar by Danilo D’Ambrosio.

But the visitors’ spell of dominance was brief as Higuain finally got his name on the scoresheet in the 63rd minute.

The striker collected Hamsik’s short pass before curling an unstoppable 20-yard shot past Handanovic – the ball clipping the right-hand post on its way in. 

Inter were handed a late lifeline, though, as Palacio drilled home from eight yards following a bout of pinball in the Napoli penalty area.

And Napoli’s capitulation was complete with three minutes remaining, as Henrique was given his marching orders for a foul on Guarin and Icardi kept his cool from the spot to level it up.

Mancini targets Serie A title next season

The club are 23 points adrift of leaders Juventus but the Italian is still confident of bridging that gap over the next 12 months

Roberto Mancini believes it is only a matter of time before Inter are competing for major honours again and said the Serie A title will be his primary focus next season.

The Nerazzurri have suffered an alarming fall from grace after winning the Champions League under Jose Mourinho in 2010, with Andrea Stramaccioni and Walter Mazzarri both failing to halt their slide over the past two years.

Mancini was appointed as Mazzarri’s replacement in November and has already signalled his intent with the January acquisitions of Xherdan Shaqiri and Lukas Podolski and the former Manchester City and Galatasaray coach has publicly declared his wider ambition for Inter, starting with dethroning Juventus in Serie A next term.

“We are working now to guarantee results at the end of this term. Inter must target the Scudetto next season,” said the 50-year-old.

“I think the teams ahead of us feel more certain because they have been working together for longer. This can make the difference, but it’s just a matter of time for us.”

Inter were beaten 1-0 by Fiorentina last Sunday, with the Viola’s in-form loan signing Mohamed Salah scoring the decisive goal, but the winger could well have been wearing black and blue had Mancini had his way in the winter window.

“It’s true, Salah had thought about us and there was a concrete possibility. I spoke to him on the phone. Then things went differently, but he was an option for us, that’s for sure.

“We knew Chelsea wanted Cuadrado, so we couldn’t give them a player in exchange the way Fiorentina did.”

Mancini’s men face a crunch clash with Napoli on Sunday before facing Wolfsburg in the first leg of their last-16 Europa League clash on Thursday.

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