Inside Lionel Messi and Mauro Icardi’s toxic relationship amid Barcelona swap rumours

Inside Lionel Messi and Mauro Icardi’s toxic relationship amid Barcelona swap rumours

A current Paris Saint-Germain forward who was born in the Argentine city of Rosario, was a prolific youth scorer at junior level and who joined Barcelona as a teenage prodigy.

This was the pathway shared by both Lionel Messi and Mauro Icardi – two players who have a lot in common but who are also divided.

The pair are now teammates in the French capital but they do not share a close relationship with Messi said to be pushing the club to include Icardi in a swap deal with Barca.

Messi is reported to want Sergio Aguero to join him in Paris – the two have been roommates together over many years for Argentina and have a close personal friendship.

Aguero joined Barca this summer in an understanding that he would finally be linking up with his long-time friend at club level but now that Messi has gone, he too is open to a Camp Nou exit.

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Messi and Icardi have endured a frosty relationship
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REUTERS)

Icardi is suspicious of Messi and believes that he is the reason he has not received a call-up to the Argentina national squad in three years.

Indeed, the striker has received a paltry eight caps for his country and was put into the international wilderness after his first Argentina appearance in 2013 – having to wait four years for a recall.

This was despite Icardi’s sensational spell of form at the time for club side Inter, for whom he netted 27 goals in the 2014/15 season without a call-up – the start of a run that saw him bag 91 Serie A goals across four campaigns.

Fans in South America were increasingly perplexed by Icardi’s continued omission from the international setup.

Argentina coach Edgardo Bauza had to reject claims that he was operating a ‘friends of Lionel Messi’ selection policy after Argentina’s TV show Debate Final suggested it was the then-Barca star who was dictating call-ups.

Gonzalo Higuain and Lucas Pratto – whose club career during this period was at Velez Sarsfield and Atletico Mineiro in South America – were among those who were surprisingly selected ahead of Icardi, who by this stage was a regular in Serie A’s Team of the Season.

Bauza went on the record to say: “When Messi sees something in the team he doesn’t like, he says so, but it doesn’t hurt the team.

“It is not true what is said that there are players who cannot be selected because they are not liked by the group.

“If I want to select him (Icardi) I will, but today he is below Higuain and Pratto.”

So where did it all go wrong between Messi and Icardi?

The two came from the same Argentine city and both joined Barca’s La Masia setup as teenagers; Icardi moved to Catalonia after breaking youth goal scoring records in Gran Canaria.

Icardi’s international career has never quite kicked on
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Getty Images)

Barca had beaten off competition from Real Madrid, Arsenal and Liverpool, among others, to attain Icardi’s signature and there was significant excitement on his future.

While the striker did not make the cut at the Camp Nou – partly through choice, moving to Italy aged 18 – he did establish himself as a lethal Serie A finisher at Inter, following a stint with Sampdoria.

It is at this juncture where Icardi briefly played alongside compatriot Maxi Lopez in Samp’s attack, with the two becoming close friends in Genoa.

Lopez was close with Messi; the striker had played a largely forgettable 19 matches at Barca between 2005 and 2006, the time when Messi was breaking through into the first-team squad, with Lopez – three years his elder – striking up a close bond with the future superstar.

Lopez was married to Wanda Nara, a well-known Argentine media personality and TV presenter – who grew close to Icardi during social events arranged between the two.

Too close.

Icardi and Nara had a fling that came to light in 2013 and the pair were married the following year, less than five months after divorce proceedings had been initiated between herself and Lopez.

It was a move that generated huge headlines across Argentina and Italy; these were three high-profile Argentines and Nara abandoning Lopez for his club teammate understandable took the media attention off the scale.

Maxi Lopez struck up a friendship with Messi during a brief spell at Barca
(
Reuters)

This led to significant animosity between former teammates Lopez and Icardi, who had subsequently joined Inter – perhaps unsurprisingly moving away from his strike partner.

The two went head-to-head in a Serie A match in April 2014, which became know infamously as the “Wanda derby”, in which the two refused to shake hands in the pre-match niceties.

The same event played out again the following season when Icardi’s Inter side faced Torino, whom Lopez had joined – there was no intention of shaking hands.

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Icardi and Nara now have two daughters together; six-year-old Francesca and four-year-old Isabella, but appeared to be in a high-profile argument with Nara’s rant on Instagram last week appearing to be aimed at her husband who subsequently sat out PSG’s midweek Champions League match due to ‘family issues’.

The two’s relationship has made no shortage of headlines in recent years, and it appears to have had a significant impact in the Argentine international setup, regardless of whether Messi had influence over any squad decisions or not.

The two are now club teammates in Paris but the reports of Messi’s attempts to engineer a swap move with his former club would be the latest chapter in a history of bad blood between the superstar and Icardi.

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