Lautaro Martinez has called for an end to the ongoing stand-off between Inter and former captain Mauro Icardi.

Striker Icardi has not played for the club since being stripped of the armband by head coach Luciano Spalletti last month.

But despite his absence, Inter climbed to third in Serie A with a thrilling 3-2 win against rivals AC Milan on Sunday.

Martinez scored what proved to be the winner from the penalty spot but the Argentina attacker still wants compatriot Icardi back.

"The situation is unpleasant, it is not at all nice for both Icardi and the group," Martinez said to TNT Sports.

"However, we can only continue to train and play with maximum commitment.

"We are employees and, as such, we must always be available to the club, but we hope that everything will be resolved as soon as possible.

"Icardi, his entourage and the club will decide. We try to stay focused on our work."

Mauro Icardi's stand-off with Inter could soon be resolved, according to the Serie A club's general manager Giuseppe Marotta.

Icardi has not played since he was stripped of the captaincy in February, as talks over a new contract reportedly broke down.

Marotta has since held positive talks with Icardi's wife and agent Wanda Nara, although the Inters striker remains sidelined with a supposed knee injury.

But Marotta believes that the situation is close to a resolution, insisting that the decision to hand the captain's armband to Samir Handanovic was not a punishment for Icardi.

"I hope the situation can mend itself," Marotta told reporters.

"We're a family and parents must make decisions for the sake of their children, but they're not punishments. They're made so the kids can grow and get better.

"That's how our decision should be interpreted. I hope we can mend this rift as quickly as possible because Icardi is a good lad who has given a lot to Inter and can still give us so much.

"Now he's struggling with a knee problem. We hope it heals as quickly as possible and that he returns to the group after rehabilitation."

Icardi's absence was felt by Inter as they went out of the Europa League on Thursday, but Luciano Spalletti's side responded in style by beating rivals AC Milan 3-2 in a thrilling Derby della Madonnina on Sunday, moving them up to third place in Serie A.

Inter head coach Luciano Spalletti insists he has no regrets about his handling of the Mauro Icardi saga.

Icardi will not be involved in Inter's Derby della Madonnina against AC Milan on Sunday, as a stand-off over his future and conflicting takes from club and player over his fitness continue.

Inter are fourth – just a point and place behind their city rivals – but go into the clash having won just once in their last five games and off the back of a Europa League exit to Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday.

The ongoing Icardi soap opera continues to provide an unwelcome distraction for Spalletti but he is adamant that he would not have done anything differently.

"If I go back in time, I lose more time," he told a media conference

"I don't go back, I go on. Choices must be made at the moment and after you have taken them you have to stick with them."

He then told the assembled journalists: "If you go back and rewrite your articles, it's a mess."

Milan enter the game in contrastingly high spirits following a run of five consecutive wins in Serie A. 

That recent upturn owes much to the prolific form of Krzysztof Piatek, who has scored six goals in as many league starts since joining from Genoa in January.

Spalletti, however, says Inter will not be taking any specific measures to stop the Poland striker.

"We usually defend against the whole team, never individually," he explained. "It is clear that we will also have to take into consideration the individual challenge, but it depends where he plays."

When asked if his side can finish above their city rivals, Spalletti made it clear that is focus is squarely on securing a Champions League qualification spot.

"They're a strong team as they're showing at this time, but our aim is to finish in the top four," he added.

AC Milan head coach Gennaro Gattuso has accused Mauro Icardi of lacking respect for his Inter team-mates ahead of Sunday's Derby della Madonnina.

Icardi will not be involved at San Siro when the city rivals clash, as a stand-off over his Inter future and conflicting takes from club and player over his fitness continue.

Milan enter the game in contrastingly high spirits, a point and a place ahead of Inter in third following a run of five consecutive wins in Serie A.

Asked about Icardi, who scored a last-gasp winner when the sides met earlier this season but has now been stripped of the Inter captaincy, Gattuso told a pre-match news conference: "The way I see it, even the best player in the world should respect his team-mates.

"Respect for players and those who represent them is fundamental. The locker room is sacred.

"I appreciate when my players speak their mind in person."

Milan's recent upturn owes much to the prolific form of Krzysztof Piatek, who has scored six goals in as many league starts since joining from Genoa in January.

The Poland striker's dedication in training was initially mistaken for dissatisfaction by Gattuso, who is delighted by his recent recruit's attitude.

"We do not speak much, he prefers actions on the pitch," he said.

"I am beginning to see him smile more often. At the beginning I thought he was upset with me.

"He is dedicated and likes to train, he knows what needs to be done."

Gattuso added: "The team has to make the difference on the pitch. Few players are capable of winning a game on their own, we are not in a condition to win based on just one player."

Luciano Spalletti is not to blame for the problems that have destabilised Inter's season, according to CEO Beppe Marotta.

The Nerazzurri slumped to a shock Europa League exit at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt in a 1-0 loss at San Siro on Thursday.

Inter have now won just one of their past five matches in all competitions and are in danger of sliding out of the top four in Serie A.

The highly publicised contract saga surrounding Mauro Icardi has exacerbated the pressure on Spalletti ahead of this weekend's Milan derby.

"The coach has nothing to do with it," Marotta told reporters.

"Difficulties arise regardless of the identity of the coach. We have to get to this important milestone [of finishing in the top four] with him.

"There's great bitterness about our elimination from the Europa League. It hurts us. 

"We're not looking for excuses, but the reality is that we had nine players missing [against Frankfurt], not just Icardi."

Inter's star striker has not featured since being stripped of the captaincy in February and is expected to miss Sunday's crunch clash against the Rossoneri, who are one point ahead of Inter in third.

Marotta believes the two parties can still reach a positive resolution despite widespread speculation that the 26-year-old is destined to leave at the end of the season.

"I'm always optimistic because I always think that common sense prevails, and subsequently I think we can find satisfaction," he said.

It was only December when reports emerged the axe could be set to fall on AC Milan boss Gennaro Gattuso, with Arsene Wenger the man on everyone's lips.

Only two wins in seven matches that month, and Ivan Gazidis' arrival from Arsenal, increased pressure on Gattuso and prompted speculation over former Gunners manager Wenger.

Ex-Chelsea and Juventus head coach Antonio Conte was also linked with a return to Italy via Milan.

Since the New Year, however, Gattuso and his Milan have only lost once in 12 games in all competitions – including five successive Serie A victories heading into Sunday's derby against Inter.

Across the city divide, Luciano Spalletti's Inter have stuttered as they deal with the ongoing uncertainty surrounding former captain Mauro Icardi.

With Milan in form and on track to qualify for the Champions League, Rossoneri great Gattuso has fans dreaming again.

 

Difficult December

Already under pressure following Leonardo's return, the month of December only plunged Gattuso's position into further doubt. Back at the club as they continued to overhaul their senior hierarchy under new owners Elliott Management, sporting director Leonardo was forced to deny links with Conte in July. Five months later, the 49-year-old Brazilian then dismissed reports Gattuso could be replaced. Leonardo's backing came after a five-match winless streak, which included a run of four league games without a goal against Torino, Bologna, Fiorentina and Frosinone. At that stage, Inter were third and seven points clear of fourth-placed Lazio following victories over Napoli and Empoli to close out 2018.

Higuain out, Piatek in

Gonzalo Higuain's arrival from Juventus at the expense of Leonardo Bonucci after just one season was meant to signal a new era at San Siro, with the Argentina international seen as the man to follow in the footsteps of Andriy Shevchenko and others. Many believed Milan were the winners of that deal too after also signing promising defender Mattia Caldara. It did not go according to plan, however. Higuain – often a frustrated figure on the pitch – left for Chelsea and a Maurizio Sarri reunion having scored just eight goals in all competitions. Milan wasted little time replacing the former Napoli striker, turning to Genoa sensation Krzysztof Piatek in a €35million deal in January. With Brazilian star Lucas Paqueta's transfer triggering memories of Kaka, Milan enjoyed an upturn in form. After making his debut against Napoli, Piatek opened his account with a double against the same opposition in the Coppa Italia three days later. Milan only lost once in January – against Juve in the Supercoppa Italiana – as Gattuso celebrated his true number nine.

Atalanta comeback

Leaving the Italian capital with a point against Roma thanks to Piatek further highlighted Milan's resurgence, which the Poland international and Paqueta backed up at home to Cagliari. But, it was the win at Atalanta that really impressed. One of the most entertaining teams in the league under Gian Piero Gasperini, Atalanta were stunned by a red-hot Milan. With another Piatek brace, a settled front three and a midfield trio of Franck Kessie, Paqueta and Tiemoue Bakayoko – finally returning to his Monaco form – performing well, doubts over Gattuso quickly disappeared. As for the Nerazzurri, they went through a turbulent February. After playing as Inter snapped a three-match losing run against Parma, Icardi was stripped of the captaincy and replaced by Samir Handanovic. The 26-year-old has not featured in the eight matches since.

Milan leapfrog Inter

Repaying the faith shown and solidifying the rebuilding project under Elliott Management, Gattuso's Milan continued to fly high as they went from fourth to third, dislodging Inter for the final Champions League automatic qualifying spot. A fourth successive league win at home to Sassuolo, coupled with Inter's shock loss away to Cagliari, saw Milan take full advantage to leapfrog their bitter rivals in the standings. Absent from the Champions League since 2013-14, Milan cemented that position – only six points behind second-placed Napoli – with a gritty victory on the road against Chievo, where Piatek enhanced his status as a fan favourite.

Mauro Icardi's ongoing stand-off with Inter looms over this weekend's derby showdown against AC Milan at San Siro.

The striker was stripped of the club captaincy in February and is yet to return to training following a knee problem, despite head coach Luciano Spalletti stating he has been cleared by Inter's medical staff.

Icardi's wife and agent Wanda Nara insisted again this week that the Argentina international wants to remain with the Nerazzurri but, even if he does, his status as the most potent frontman in the city is under threat.

Poland's Krzysztof Piatek has been a revelation since joining Milan from Genoa in January and the rivals' contrasting form of late can partially be explained by the contributions of their leading centre-forwards.

With Piatek making hay as Icardi watches on, we took a look at some Opta data comparing the two number nines.

80.33 – Piatek averages better than a goal a game in Serie A since linking up with Gennaro Gattuso's squad, netting six in as many starts to average one every 80.33 minutes.

13 – The 23-year's introduction to Serie A with Genoa earlier this season was similarly prolific as he scored 13 times in 19 appearances.

102.34 – Icardi's goals-per-minute reading for 2017-18, when he scored 29 in 34 Serie A outings – all of which were starts. Piatek's Genoa stint was shy of this in terms of goal regularity, clocking 122.62 minutes per goal.

9 – Icardi's productivity had dropped off considerably this season, even before his absence. Over the course of 20 appearances, 18 from the first whistle, he has scored nine times or once every 185.44 minutes.

76.92 – Piatek's shooting accuracy percentage at Milan, up from 50 at Genoa. Over the course of his prolific 2017-18, Icardi's accuracy stood at 63.1 per cent as he returned 1.6 shots on target per game.

37.5 – Another number assisted by the smaller sample of Piatek's time at Milan, but his shot conversion percentage is, again, impressively high. Icardi converted 28.71 per cent last season, down to 16.98 this time around.

Inter's Europa League campaign came to a lacklustre end as Luka Jovic's early strike secured Eintracht Frankfurt's progression into the quarter-finals with a 1-0 win.

Kevin Trapp had been Frankfurt's hero with his penalty save in the goalless first leg and, without a recognised striker to call on, Luciano Spalletti's Inter side were toothless throughout Thursday's meeting.

Jovic showed Inter – still without Mauro Icardi, who has not played since being stripped of the captaincy in mid-February – what they were missing with a composed finish that paved the way for a dominant Frankfurt display at San Siro.

Sebastien Haller hit the woodwork prior to Jovic's strike and Frankfurt would have had more if not for fine work from Samir Handanovic and Milan Skriniar as Inter, who face AC Milan in a huge Serie A clash on Sunday, went out with a whimper.

Any doubts over Frankfurt's approach to the contest were put aside after four minutes – Haller hitting the crossbar after Handanovic had kept out Mijat Gacinovic's effort.

Inter failed to heed that warning, though, and Frankfurt had the lead a minute later when Jovic capitalised on Stefan de Vrij's misjudgement and lofted a delicate finish over Handanovic.

Haller looked to have made it 2-0 before the half hour, but the offside flag came to Inter's rescue before the striker and Gacinovic were denied in the same move by Handanovic's superb double save.

Jovic could have doubled his tally after the restart, only to slip at the vital moment, while Skriniar made a crucial challenge to deny Gacinovic a free shot at goal.

But, despite Jovic heading straight at Handanovic late on, Frankfurt were not made to pay for their profligacy, speculative efforts from Antonio Candreva and Skriniar the most Inter could muster as their European hopes were limply extinguished.

 

What does it mean? Frankfurt flying Germany's flag in Europe

With Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich having crashed out of the Champions League, Frankfurt are now the Bundesliga's sole representatives in Europe, and will rightly harbour hopes of going all the way.

Inter, meanwhile, must now focus on securing Champions League qualification via a top-four finish in Serie A, but their task continues to be overshadowed by doubts over Icardi's future.

Jovic back on the goal trail

Considering his exploits this season, three games without a goal represented a dip in form for Jovic, but the 21-year-old – who has 15 Bundesliga goals this term –  ended his mini draught in typically clinical fashion.

Keita toils in Icardi, Martinez absences

With Icardi not available and Lautaro Martinez suspended, Keita Balde Diao deputised up top for Inter, but despite offering pace and guile, he lacked the nous and positional sense to really test Frankfurt's line.

What's next?

It is the Milan derby up next for Inter, who are currently a point behind their city rivals in Serie A as both clubs aim to secure Champions League qualification. Frankfurt, meanwhile, take on Nurnberg as they push for a top-four Bundesliga finish.

Luciano Spalletti feels it could be an advantage for Inter to be without a recognised striker for their Europa League last-16 tie at home to Eintracht Frankfurt.

Spalletti's side are without Lautaro Martinez due to suspension and Mauro Icardi is not in the squad, the latter having not played since being stripped of the captaincy.

A clutch of youth team players have been called up to bolster a thin squad but Spalletti denied having an eye on Sunday's derby clash with AC Milan in Serie A.

Keita Balde Diao and Matteo Politano are among the options available to Spalletti in attack on Thursday, with Inter at home for the second leg after last week's goalless draw in Frankfurt.

"Politano played as a striker last year for Sassuolo and did really well," Spalletti told reporters.

"Not giving clear points of reference to the opposition can be an added advantage. Keita Balde is also comfortable in that position.

"Keita is doing well, while [Marcelo] Brozovic has been called up but will be on the bench. Borja Valero will play as normal. We hope that these few rest days have got [Ivan] Perisic back to his best.

"He's an important player for us. He's blessed with plenty of qualities, whether that be fitness, physicality or his ability to beat a man. His contribution is key, just like all the other players.

"Obviously, I won't complain about who I have available. Complaining doesn't help you qualify. We'll have 11 players out on the pitch, which is all that is needed to win matches.

"As for the younger players, if they're part of a club like ours then they must always be prepared. There may be an opportunity for some of them to show what they can do." 

Inter's game against Milan could have huge implications for the Champions League qualification chances of both sides.

"We must focus on tomorrow's match before thinking about the derby," Spalletti added. 

"We have the ability to win tomorrow and those that play must be motivated, being fully aware of the game's importance.

"It's a knockout tie and we must make the right decisions to ensure that we don't pay a dear price. We must make the most of our experience in Europe so far."

Luciano Spalletti implored Inter to shed their San Siro shyness after a largely restrained 2-0 home win over SPAL on Sunday.

Second-half goals from Matteo Politano and Roberto Gagliardini secured the Nerazzurri their first victory in four matches in all competitions and established a six-point buffer to fifth-place Roma.

The result also kept city rivals AC Milan in close quarters ahead of next weekend's blockbuster Derby della Madonnina.

Miranda and Marcelo Brozovic could miss that match after sustaining nose and thigh injuries respectively versus SPAL, against whom they were already without Radja Nainggolan, Ivan Perisic and Mauro Icardi.

Spalletti, though, sees bigger concerns with his team's timidity on their home turf, Inter having taken until winger Politano's 67th-minute opener to find their groove.

"Despite our absences, 11 players worthy of Inter headed out onto the pitch today," Spalletti said.

"We struggled a bit with the emotions at the start and this must not happen. We knew we had to win and once our fire started to burn inside then we broke the deadlock and went on to win.

"We were a bit timid and insecure during the first half. The lads had a different conviction after our second goal and we regained our characteristics. In the second half I could see what we were really about. 

"I know my players well and at times we're held back by our emotions. We need the courage to make choices.

"We're here to win while wearing this shirt. We have to achieve this because only by doing this can you be a part of Inter."

Star striker Icardi, who claims a knee problem is preventing him from training, was not seen at San Siro amid an ongoing contract dispute.

The 26-year-old has not featured since being stripped of the captaincy in February and Spalletti is reluctant to discuss his situation any further.

"I won't talk about him, because whatever I say gets interpreted in every way possible," he said.

"We have a common goal, which is victory. It is victories and performances that determine whether you can be an Inter player."

Lautaro Martinez, Inter's starting striker in Icardi's absence, is suspended for Thursday's second-leg encounter against Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League last 16.

Mauro Icardi is not in Inter's squad to face SPAL on Sunday.

Icardi has not played for Inter since being stripped of the captaincy, with goalkeeper Samir Handanovic named his replacement.

The striker has claimed he is receiving treatment on a knee injury, but Inter said tests found no specific issue.

Inter released a statement this week confirming "cordial" talks had been held with Icardi and his agent, Wanda Nara, who is also his wife.

But despite speculation that meeting had paved the way for Icardi to play against SPAL, he is not in Spallett's squad.

 

Also absent is Radja Nainggolan, with the midfielder expected to miss the Milan derby later this month due to a calf injury.

Inter midfielder Radja Nainggolan is expected to miss the Milan derby next weekend, according to coach Luciano Spalletti.

Nainggolan is out with a calf injury and not likely to return in time for the March 17 clash between the local rivals, which will likely be key for the Champions League hopes of Inter and AC Milan.

The Nerazzurri will look to end a three-game winless run in all competitions when SPAL visit San Siro on Sunday, and they could have Keita Balde Diao and Ivan Perisic, who hobbled off in the Europa League draw with Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday, available.

"The latest news is that [Perisic] will be available, just like Keita," he told reporters on Saturday. 

"Nainggolan, on the other hand, hasn't fully recovered, and I don't expect to see him back in time for the derby.

"But we'll evaluate him day by day. We can't say much more at the moment."

It is unclear whether Mauro Icardi will play against SPAL, Inter having released a statement on Wednesday revealing the club has held "cordial" talks with the striker and his agent.

Icardi has not played for the club since being stripped of the captaincy, claiming to be suffering from a knee injury, though Inter said tests found no specific issue.

Spalletti made the decision to give Samir Handanovic the armband and has no information on when the Argentina international will be back.

"I haven't received any more updates," he added. "But [chief executive Giuseppe] Marotta is the best man to handle this situation for all parties involved.

"There are things that need clarifying and with all of his experience, he'll be able to look after all parties. It's right that you ask him.

"For me, time is running out before the end of the season and we need to make the most of the time left to get results, so my focus is on matters on the pitch."

Mauro Icardi has been cleared to train by Inter's medical staff but the former captain said "I'll tell you when I feel ready to play", according to head coach Luciano Spalletti.

Icardi has not played for Inter since he was stripped of the captaincy and replaced by team-mate Samir Handanovic amid uncertainty over his future.

The 26-year-old star – who has asked for more respect from the Serie A club – complained of knee pain after missing the Europa League win at Rapid Vienna on February 13, though Inter could not identify any specific problem.

Icardi was once again absent on Thursday as Inter played out a goalless draw away to Eintracht Frankfurt in the first leg of their Europa League quarter-final.

Asked about Icardi post-match, Spalletti told reporters: "The truth is that we asked Mauro if he felt like resuming training.

"The doctor said that in his view the necessary period for treatment had terminated. He replied: 'No, I still feel pain. I'll tell you when I feel ready to play'.

"I acknowledged what he said and went back home. The director [Beppe Marotta] will tell you the rest."

Icardi – contracted until 2021 – has scored 15 goals in 28 appearances in all competitions this season but has not played since the 1-0 Serie A win over Parma on February 9.

He has been linked with the likes of Real Madrid, Juventus, Barcelona, Napoli, Manchester United.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni explained Mauro Icardi was not considered for selection in his latest squad due to the Inter striker's "complicated situation" at club level.

Icardi has been left out of Inter's last five matchday squads after being stripped of the captaincy last month, and speculation over his future at San Siro persists.

The 26-year-old posted a lengthy statement on Instagram last week in which he questioned whether Inter's decision-makers were showing him respect, although he professed his love for the club and claimed to have previously rejected several significant offers.

Despite his affection for the Nerazzurri, Icardi and Inter have been unable to reach an agreement over a new contract, raising the possibility that he has played his last game for the club.

That situation has now impacted Icardi's international career, as Scaloni wished to keep such potential distractions well away from his squad for the friendlies with Venezuela and Morocco, with Lionel Messi involved for the first time since the World Cup.

"Mauro's present situation is complicated," Scaloni told a news conference. "That is evident and we cannot be part of his present.

"He takes decisions with his people and his club and then we take our own decisions. It is not convenient for the national team, Mauro's current situation.  

"We have to take decisions and this time he won't be with us. If later he will go to the Copa America or not, we will see in the next few months.

"Our line is always the same, to call players for a reason and Mauro is in a complicated situation.

"I talked to him. He understood very well.

"I was a player and I don't like to get involved in situations like this one. I prefer to wait until he solves his situation and later we'll decide what to do."

Lionel Messi is back in the Argentina squad for the first time in almost nine months, although Sergio Aguero has been left out.

Messi has not played for his country since the 2018 World Cup, where Jorge Sampaoli's side lost to eventual winners France in the last 16.

Sampaoli's successor Lionel Scaloni has been unable to call upon the Barcelona captain for any of Argentina's matches since taking charge.

But Messi will soon make his international return as he is in the Argentina squad for upcoming friendly matches against Venezuela and Morocco.

There is no room for Aguero, however, with Scaloni favouring Lautaro Martinez, Giovanni Simeone and Dario Benedetto over the Manchester City star.

Inter striker Mauro Icardi also misses out, as he has not played for his club since February 9 amid a stand-off that began with him being stripped of the captaincy.

Gonzalo Higuain is another high-profile attacking omission. Like Aguero, Chelsea's on-loan Juventus striker has not been involved for the Albiceleste since Russia 2018.

Scaloni has once again taken the opportunity to shuffle his pack and call up a host of uncapped players.

Goalkeepers Esteban Andrada and Juan Musso could feature for the first time, while Gonzalo Montiel and Lisandro Martinez are newcomers in defence.

Midfielder Matias Zaracho has been called up before, but the 20-year-old winger is still hoping for a debut cap, while Ivan Marcone and Domingo Blanco are similarly inexperienced on the international stage.

The new face among the forwards is Matias Suarez, a 30-year-old attacker who has scored three times in six league games for River Plate since joining from Belgrano in January.

There is also a return for Manuel Lanzini, who has not featured for Argentina since damaging knee ligaments in a World Cup warm-up match against Haiti last May.

Argentina will compete in the Copa America this year, having been drawn in Group B alongside Colombia, Paraguay and special guests Qatar.

Messi and Argentina have been on the losing side in each of the past two Copa America finals, beaten by Chile on penalties on both occasions.

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