Inter will forever be Mauro Icardi's first choice in Italy despite the club having tried to force him out, according to his wife and agent Wanda Nara.

Argentina striker Icardi brought an end to a turbulent six months when he secured a season-long loan switch to Paris Saint-Germain on deadline day.

The Ligue 1 champions can make the move permanent for a reported €70million fee but Nara, whose husband signed a one-year contract extension before leaving San Siro, insists his Inter departure is "not a divorce".

That is despite the Serie A side's rumoured willingness to complete a deal that would have sent Icardi to Juventus in a part-exchange for Gonzalo Higuain, who spent part of last season on loan at AC Milan.

The 26-year-old's future became even more uncertain the following month when he was stripped of the captaincy amid a standstill in contract talks.

"Inter needed to sell Icardi. As captain, Mauro would never have left the club. It was a strategy to sell him," Nara told Corriere della Sera.

"In January, he refused to transfer to another team. I won't tell the team's name. The other player, however, came to Milan, but not to Inter...

"[Icardi] replied: 'I am the captain and I will not leave this team'. That's when the relationship broke. They had another idea."

Despite the rift, Nara claims Icardi still views the Nerazzurri as his preferred Serie A home.

"He likes playing in Italy, he knows the league well," she said.

"I think he will come back. I don't know where and how. Inter will always be the priority.

"[There have been] many misunderstandings, but the desire to play for Inter and the love of the fans remains.

"There are crises in a long relationship. In the end we leave each other with a repaired relationship, without any betrayal."

The ex-Sampdoria star spent almost two months out of Inter's first team last season before Luciano Spalletti ended the exile in April.

However, he was compelled to accept PSG's offer of a fresh escape route after being told he did not figure in new boss Antonio Conte's plans.

"You can't say no to PSG," Nara said. "They have everything needed to win, it's a club full of stars and Mauro is honoured to be part of it.

"At the end of the season we will choose whatever is best. I work for him; the choices are his."

Lionel Messi will get to decide his Barcelona future, regardless of when the star is contracted until.

Messi, 32, re-signed with the LaLiga champions two years ago, extending his contract until 2021.

But such extensions may not matter when it comes to arguably the world's best player.

 

TOP STORY – MESSI CAN LEAVE BARCELONA AT THE END OF ANY SEASON

Messi can choose to leave Barcelona at the conclusion of any campaign regardless of his contract, according to El Pais.

The Argentina superstar made his debut for the club in late 2004, and his future is seemingly in his own hands.

It remains to be seen when, or if, Messi decides to depart Camp Nou.

ROUND-UP

- Philippe Coutinho eventually left Barcelona for Bayern Munich on loan, but it could have been different for the playmaker. Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola rejected the chance to sign the 27-year-old, according to Marca.

- Left out of Juventus' Champions League squad, Mario Mandzukic is eyeing a January exit, according to Calciomercato.com. The striker was heavily linked with a move to Manchester United during the transfer window.

- Staying in Turin, Juventus could have signed Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng in the close season. Calciomercato.com reports Maurizio Sarri rejected a move for the centre-back.

- Ousmane Dembele was reportedly wanted by Paris Saint-Germain while they were in talks with Barcelona over a move for Neymar. But the attacker refused to leave because he is at his dream club at Barcelona, according to L'Equipe.

- Former Juventus midfielder Claudio Marchisio is reportedly in talks with Monaco, but the 55-time Italy international turned down a move to Scottish giants Rangers, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Left out of the England squad, Manchester City defender Kyle Walker is worried he has no international future under Gareth Southgate, the Daily Star reports.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan is unsure if he has a future at Arsenal after joining Serie A side Roma on loan.

The Armenia international joined Roma on a season-long loan on Monday, after just a season and a half at the Emirates Stadium.

Asked about his Arsenal future after Armenia's 3-1 loss to Italy in Euro 2020 qualifying on Thursday, Mkhitaryan said his focus was on Roma.

"Let's first see what I can do in Roma and at the end of the season I think we can talk if I will have the possibility to stay or to go to something else, I don't know," the midfielder told reporters, via VBET News.

"Now, I cannot say about future, it's better to be focused on the next games."

Roma have made a slow start to the Serie A season, playing out draws with Genoa and Lazio in their opening two games.

Asked about where he would prefer to play for Roma, Mkhitaryan said he was open to anything to help his side.

"I'm ready to play in every position and I'm ready to help the team because the club is great," he said.

"The team is a very good team and I'm going to try and do my best to help the team to achieve."

Mauro Icardi's wife and agent Wanda Nara claims the striker's loan move to Paris Saint-Germain was an "ace up her sleeve".

Icardi, who was stripped of the captaincy at San Siro in January, secured a season-long switch to PSG from Inter on deadline day after much speculation over his future.

The striker had been linked with Juventus and Napoli but agreed a one-year contract extension with Inter, who have given PSG a reported €70million option to buy Icardi at the end of the campaign.

Icardi's move to PSG followed reports his legal team were threatening to sue Inter over his omission from the first team.

Nara says she always had the switch to Paris lined up even though it is not the ideal scenario for her.

"If I waited until the last moment, it's because I had an ace up my sleeve," Nara told Argentine show Morfi Telefe. "Nobody knew, not even the kids. Mauro packed a small suitcase and left the rest to me.

"The kids go to school in Italy, so we'll live between Milan and Paris. Of the three options we had, PSG was the worst for me, because I have to go back to live in Milan with the kids.

"But I thought of what was best for him. There were many important Italian clubs who wanted him and it would've been easier."

Icardi did not feature for Antonio Conte's side during pre-season or the opening two games of Inter's Serie A campaign after being told he could leave.

He could be in contention to feature for PSG against Strasbourg on September 14, before Thomas Tuchel's side take on Real Madrid in their opening Champions League group match.

Blaise Matuidi has called for meaningful action to be taken after Inter striker Romelu Lukaku became the latest player to be racially abused in a game at Cagliari.

Lukaku appeared to be the subject of monkey chants from the stands at Sardegna Arena on Sunday as he scored from the penalty spot in his side's 2-1 Serie A win.

It was the fourth high-profile incident involving Cagliari fans in just over two years, with Juve midfielder Matuidi previously targeted, along with Moise Kean and Sulley Muntari.

The Italian Football Federation and FIFA were quick to condemn the crowd's conduct, but Matuidi has urged the governing bodies to take firm action against the minority responsible.

"Racism in Italy? I already had this problem," the France international said at a news conference on Thursday. "There was the Lukaku problem. It was also in the same stadium.

"I think there must be some measures [taken]. It has no place in football. And in all sports even - and even in life. We don't like to see that. 

"This is not a good example for the young people, for our children. We will do everything so that it is no longer the case, even if it is difficult because it concerns a minority. 

"But this minority of people has no place in the stadiums. We have bodies that are there to make decisions and I think it's up to them to make the right decisions."

Matuidi was strongly linked with a move to Paris Saint-Germain during the transfer window but, having started Juve's opening two Serie A matches, he dismissed rumours he was ever close to leaving.

"I always declared that I was comfortable at Juventus, one of the best clubs in the world," he said.

"Paris will always have a place in my heart. I have supported PSG since I was a child and wearing their jersey was a dream. But now I'm proud to be at Juve."

The 32-year-old is part of France's squad for their upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Albania and Andorra.

Aymeric Laporte and Paul Pogba have withdrawn from the initial squad, while Tanguy Ndombele and N'Golo Kante were not considered for selection due to fitness concerns, but Matuidi insisted others can step up for the world champions.

"We are lucky to have a huge pool, with a lot of high-quality players," he said. "There are important players who are absent, but there are others who are there and who have proved for their club that they can bring a lot. 

"We have great confidence in this group and we are able to win despite absences.

"[The absentees] should not be an excuse. We have 23 players and must be successful and win these two games, especially at home. When we wear the jersey of the French team, we always play to win."

Nikola Kalinic claims Edin Dzeko convinced him to join Roma and believes the two strikers could form a successful front pairing.

Ex-Croatia international Kalinic secured a deadline-day loan switch to Stadio Olimpico after falling out of Diego Simeone's plans at Atletico Madrid.

The 31-year-old has prior experience in Italy with Fiorentina and AC Milan, scoring 33 times in 99 Serie A appearances.

Roma moved for a deputy to Dzeko after allowing Patrik Schick to leave for RB Leipzig but Kalinic wants to prove they can fit into the same side.

"I've spoken to Dzeko every day – he convinced me to come here," Kalinic said. "I think he's a great forward.

"The boss will decide whether we play with one or two strikers. I'm here to work hard and we'll see what happens. I'm happy in every position in the front line.

"I played on the left under [Paulo] Sousa [at Fiorentina]. I can play in a front two or in other formations."

Roma paid a €2million loan fee to capture Kalinic for the 2019-20 season and have an option to buy for a further €9m.

The former Blackburn Rovers man hopes to make an impression after a couple of lean campaigns in Milan and Madrid.

"First of all, I'd like to have an injury-free season because I've not played much over the past two years. I want to play more football this year," he said.

"We'll take things game by game – I won't say now that we'll win the Europa League or anything else.

"Roma want to play Champions League football. If we commit ourselves, game after game, we'll see where we end up."

The Giallorossi have taken two points from as many Serie A games under Paulo Fonseca, drawing against Genoa and Lazio.

Racism is a systemic issue in Italian football and authorities must do more to protect players, according to the Fare network.

Inter striker Romelu Lukaku was targeted by monkey chants as he prepared to take a penalty in a Serie A game away to Cagliari on Sunday.

Cagliari have a history of racist incidents, with Moise Kean, Blaise Matuidi and Sulley Muntari having previously received abuse.

Fare, an umbrella organisation which aims to combat inequality in football, called on Italian authorities to step up in the fight against racism.

"We have been appalled to see yet another incident of racism in Italy in the form of abuse aimed at Inter forward Romelu Lukaku at the Cagliari v Inter Serie A game," said a Fare statement.

"The abuse directed at Lukaku is one in a long list of incidents in Italian football over the past year and highlights the repeated failure to protect minority players and to tackle what is a systemic issue in Italian football.

"Sunday's events have followed a familiar pattern in Italy in which players are abused, the referee fails to protect them and the authorities take insufficient action.

"The response from Cagliari, the Italian FA and Inter ultras has been to deny its significance and take ineffective action.

"Videos circulating on social media show that monkey chants are clearly audible. The Italian FA and Serie A have this footage, it is clear evidence and the basis on which to take action that sends a strong message.

"We believe that dealing with racism should be a priority for the Italian FA. A plan of action monitored by international governing bodies UEFA and FIFA is needed. If such a plan is not developed they should face special measures and ultimately suspension."

Lilian Thuram and Vincent Kompany are among those to have spoken out in support of Lukaku since the incident.

Maurizio Sarri has returned to the training field with Juventus following a bout of pneumonia.

The 60-year-old was diagnosed in mid-August and forced to stay away from Juve's opening two games of the Serie A season – a 1-0 victory at Parma and a thrilling 4-3 triumph over his former club Napoli.

Ex-Chelsea boss Sarri led part of Juve's training session at Continassa on Wednesday.

Gonzalo Higuain and Douglas Costa will not resume work with those of their team-mates not on international duty until Friday, having been prescribed extra rest by Sarri following their exertions against Napoli.

Juve are back in action at Fiorentina on September 14 before opening their Champions League group stage campaign away to Atletico Madrid four days later.

Emre Can says he is still committed to Juventus after an initial angry reaction to being left out of the club's squad for the group stage of the Champions League.

The midfielder and Mario Mandzukic were notable absentees from Maurizio Sarri's group, with new signings Adrien Rabiot and Aaron Ramsey among those preferred.

Before training with Germany on Wednesday, Can confirmed he had held talks with Rabiot's former club Paris Saint-Germain over a transfer to the Ligue 1 champions before Monday's deadline.

The 25-year-old said he was "extremely shocked" at being omitted by Juve, adding: "I got a call yesterday. The phone call was not even one minute long."

However, Can appears to regret making those comments as he used social media to clarify the situation later in the day.

"I will always be grateful to Juventus and how they supported and stood by me since I am part of the club, particularly during my time of illness," he posted on Twitter.

"Out of respect to Juventus and my team-mates, whose success has always been my first priority, I won't say anything more and will continue fighting on the pitch."

Can, who has only played 30 minutes in Serie A this term, made six Champions League appearances for Juve last term.

Juve have been drawn in Group D alongside LaLiga leaders Atletico Madrid, Bayer Leverkusen and Lokomotiv Moscow.

Vincent Kompany believes football must ensure diversity at administrative levels if it is to effectively address the problem of racism.

Kompany's Belgium team-mate Romelu Lukaku was the target of racist chanting during Inter's 2-1 Serie A win at Cagliari last weekend – the latest in a succession of recent incidents that have seen players abused due to the colour of their skin.

With a number of the recent flashpoints having occurred online, Twitter issued a statement on Tuesday detailing meetings with English players' union the Professional Footballers' Association (PFA), anti-discrimination group Kick It Out and clubs of players affected, while pledging to curb "unacceptable behaviour" on its site.

However, Kompany feels problems will continue to fester so long as the football bodies handing out punishments for racist behaviour do not effectively represent different ethnicities.

"Romelu is a victim of something disgraceful. Something that should never happen, not just in a football stadium but in society," the Anderlecht player-manager told Sky Sports News.

"Really, if you go back to who we are now expecting decisions from – the institutions - that is where the problem lies.

"The real racism lies in the fact that none of these institutions have representatives who can really understand what Romelu is going through.

"You're dealing with a crowd of people and decision-makers who are all trying to explain to Romelu how he should think, how he should feel about this, when you actually have no decision-makers who are remotely in touch with what he's experienced in his life.

"That's the real issue when you go through the board of UEFA, the Italian league, English league, everywhere.

"There is a true, true problem of diversity and, as long as you don't have diversity in places of power and in boardrooms, you cannot have the right decisions in terms of sanctions."

Kompany was speaking ahead of his testimonial at Manchester City next Wednesday, where Arsenal and France great Thierry Henry has become the latest player confirmed as part of the Premier League All-Stars XI.

A City side featuring David Silva and Sergio Aguero will be led by Kompany and contain a host of the long-serving captain's ex-team-mates, with all proceeds to be donated to the Tackle4MCR homelessness charity.

In the meantime, the 33-year-old has been adapting to his first managerial assignment with boyhood club Anderlecht.

It has proved a tough introduction to top-level coaching, with Kompany forced to wait until the 1-0 weekend win over rivals Standard Liege – a game he missed due to a hamstring strain – to taste victory for the first time.

"It was a good win," he said. "It's our version of the Clasico.

"The fans have been waiting for it patiently. [We have had] Good football and no results but now we've got good football and results. Everybody's happy."

Lilian Thuram has questioned whether football chiefs will ever back up outraged words with firm actions after Inter striker Romelu Lukaku became the latest player to suffer racist abuse.

World Cup winner Thuram says a culture of white supremacy is the underlying cause of the spate of racist incidents blighting football.

As well as incidents in stadiums, a rising tide of social media abuse of black players has tarnished the glossy image of the modern game.

Thuram, a black Frenchman born in Guadeloupe, played for 10 years in Italy with Parma and then Juventus.

He has been politically active since his playing days, speaking out often against racism in sport and issues of inequality in society.

Former Manchester United striker Lukaku faced abuse when playing for Inter at Cagliari on Sunday, with the Italian Football Federation and FIFA quick to condemn the crowd conduct.

But in an interview with Corriere dello Sport, Thuram questioned: "For how many years have there been such reactions after such events?

"In the end everyone thinks it's something serious, but a solution has yet to be found.

"If we talk about it for many years, but nothing can be done, it means there is tremendous hypocrisy and there is no will to solve the problem."

He added: "Everyone says, 'Let's do something,' but nobody really does anything. And the racists believe they are right."

He claimed anyone who fails to back up their words by acting decisively is effectively complicit, but that there are ways of encouraging societal shifts.

"In France, for example, the referees interrupt the games in the event of homophobia in the stands: to suspend the game and send the two teams to the changing room can educate people. In Italy I don't remember any such strong positions," he said.

Thuram, now 47, retired as a player in 2008 after a two-year stint at Barcelona.

He was a member of France's triumphant 1998 World Cup team and believes white-against-black racism is endemic in large parts of the world.

"We need to be aware that the world of football is not racist, but that there is racism in Italian, French, European and more generally in white culture," Thuram said.

"Whites have decided they are superior to blacks and that they can do anything with them. It is something that has been going on for centuries unfortunately. And to change a culture is not easy."

Demba Ba has urged black players to abandon Serie A after Romelu Lukaku was subjected to racism within days of joining Inter.

Former Manchester United striker Lukaku faced abuse from the stands as his new club won 2-1 away against Cagliari at Sardegna Arena on Sunday.

The incident, which came as Lukaku prepared to take a penalty, has been widely condemned outside Italy, and the Royal Belgian Football Association ran a newspaper advert in support of its player on Wednesday.

Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini promised stadium bans could be enforced if the racists are identified, but he said that "fighting ignorance is difficult" and argued closing sections of grounds would not be the correct response.

In a startling statement, Inter's Curva Nord supporters claimed the abuse of Lukaku from Cagliari fans was not racist but "a form of respect".

That message prompted Senegalese striker Ba to propose decisive action.

Ba, who was linked with a move to Inter five years ago during his Chelsea career, quote-tweeted the Inter fans' statement and wrote: "And here's the reason why I decided not to play there when I could... And at that point I wish all the black players would get out of this league! Surely it won't stop their stupidity and hate but at least they won't affect other races."

Cagliari's fans were previously involved in racist chants directed at Pescara's Sulley Muntari in 2017, Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi in 2018 and former Juve forward Moise Kean this year.

Serie A did not punish Cagliari over the Kean incident, despite saying it was "reprehensible". Investigations are continuing after the abuse aimed at Lukaku.

Lukaku, who is on Belgium duty this week, may have greater confidence in the Belgian authorities' determination to stamp out racism.

Belgian FA chief executive Peter Bossaert said on Wednesday: "Racism is intolerable and it is really sad to see that we still have to fight this plague in 2019. But we will do so and continue to do so.

"Racism must disappear from the world of football, from stadiums and from society. When one of our players, like Romelu Lukaku, is targeted by racist acts, we feel concerned.

"We find it important to express our support and take a clear stand against all forms of racism and discrimination on and around the pitches."

The Belgian FA said it would invite young people to take part in a "brainstorming exercise" in October to look at the problem of discrimination and racist chanting.

Cagliari president Tommaso Giulini said "closing curvas isn't the answer" to ending racism in Serie A after Inter star Romelu Lukaku was subjected to monkey chants last week.

Racism reared its ugly head again in Italy, where Lukaku was racially abused during Inter's 2-1 win away to Cagliari at Sardegna Arena on Sunday.

The incident, which came as Lukaku stepped up to convert a second-half penalty, sparked widespread condemnation of Cagliari – whose fans were also previously involved in racist chants directed at Pescara's Sulley Muntari (2017), Juventus midfielder Blaise Matuidi (2018) and former Juve forward Moise Kean (2019).

Inter's Curva Nord supporters claimed alleged abuse of striker Lukaku from Cagliari fans was not racist but "a form of respect".

Amid growing calls for Italian authorities to crack down on racism and Cagliari, Giulini told Radio Popolare: "We're trying to work in a serious way, through the awareness of our stewards who will have to report people to DIGOS [a law enforcement agency].

"It's not easy to lipread with technology: we'll also ask the decent fans for help, that is 99.9 per cent of Cagliari supporters.

"Fighting ignorance is difficult, so we can only raise awareness. This incident has caused huge anger and frustration in us for all the initiatives we're carrying out. We were the first to introduce a school for young fans.

"Cagliari isn't a racist city at all. I'm so sorry that this image of us has also gone abroad. I hope we aren't banned. Closing curvas isn't the answer: as I said before, stewards must be made aware.

"I won't rule out, however, that any of my stewards saw something or a camera identified someone chanting. Once they're recognised, these people could be denied entry if they try to re-enter the stadium."

Former Pescara midfielder Marco Verratti – who now plays for Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain – said games must be stopped for racism.

"You have to stop games because otherwise we won't go anywhere," the Italy international told Rai Sport.

"I know it's a big step to take, but we have to do it because otherwise those 4-5 stupid people will always be there.

"Lukaku's appeal was right. It's up to us players to show we can be role models for all ages. We carry great influence. If it starts with us, that's a good thing."

Inter's Curva Nord supporters have claimed alleged abuse of striker Romelu Lukaku from Cagliari fans was not racist but "a form of respect".

Lukaku, who joined Inter in a club-record deal from Manchester United last month, appeared to be the subject of monkey chants from Cagliari supporters as he scored in the Nerazzurri's 2-1 Serie A away win on Sunday.

The Belgium international later called for players to "unify" against discrimination, with Cagliari fans accused of singling out other black players in the past, notably Sulley Muntari, Blaise Matuidi and Moise Kean.

However, the Curva Nord fans at San Siro – a vocal section of the Inter support –have responded to Lukaku's comments with an open letter addressed to their club's new signing.

The supporters defended Cagliari and claimed racism is not a "real problem" in Italy.

The letter, posted on the group's Facebook page, begins: "Hi Romelu. We are writing to you on behalf of the Curva Nord; yes, the guys who welcomed you on your arrival in Milan.

"We are really sorry you thought that what happened in Cagliari was racist. You have to understand that Italy is not like many other north European countries where racism is a real problem."

The group continue, claiming such chants are common to "help our teams", adding: "We are not racist and so nor are the Cagliari fans."

Attempting to explain the abuse, the supporters suggest Lukaku was pinpointed because his talent made him a threat to Cagliari.

"Please consider this attitude of Italian fans as a form of respect for the fact they are afraid of you for the goals you might score against their teams and not because they hate you or they are racist," the Curva Nord said.

They add that claims of racism support the "repression of all football fans" by highlighting "a problem that is not really there".

England international Jadon Sancho offered Lukaku his support following the incident, saying the Inter star "handled it really well by not reacting and carrying on playing".

The issue of racism has come to the fore in English football in recent weeks, with a number of black Premier League players subjected to abuse on social media.

Paul Pogba, Marcus Rashford and Tammy Abraham were all targeted following missed penalties, while Kurt Zouma was abused after scoring an own goal.

Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini has been ruled out for around six months after having surgery on a damaged anterior cruciate ligament.

The experienced centre-back injured the ligament in his right knee during a training session last Friday.

The Serie A champions said in a statement on Tuesday: "This afternoon, Giorgio Chiellini underwent surgery to reconstruct the anterior cruciate ligament of the right knee.

"The intervention, performed at the Hochrum clinic in Innsbruck by Professor Christian Fink in the presence of the Juventus Club Doctor, Dr. Tzouroudis, was perfectly successful.

"The expected recovery time is around six months."

Chiellini is likely to return in March, meaning he could be fit for the Champions League quarter-finals should, Juve reach that stage.

The 35-year-old has made 384 league appearances since joining Juve from Roma in 2005.

An eight-time Serie A champion, he was a key part of the defence under former coach Massimiliano Allegri, although muscle problems restricted him to just 22 league starts last season.

In April, the Italy international told DAZN he expected to play "for another year or two" and then take up a backroom role at Allianz Stadium.

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