Milan, Feb 15 (AP/UNB) — Inter Milan pulled the captaincy from Mauro Icardi, and Mauro Icardi responded by pulling himself out of Inter Milan's next match.
The dispute highlights the tense contract talks that have been going on between the 25-year-old Argentine player and the Italian club.
Icardi's contract expires in 2021, and his agent-wife Wanda Nara has been particularly outspoken over the past month in defense of her husband. On Wednesday, amid a seven-match goal drought for Argentina forward, Inter announced that it was stripping the captain's armband from Icardi and giving it to goalkeeper Samir Handanovic.
"It was a difficult and painful decision, we all know his worth," Inter coach Luciano Spalletti said. "We made it together with all of the components of the club and it was done exclusively for the good of Inter and of the team. There are some things concerning the player that had to be worked out.
"He was disappointed, he was upset. It was difficult to tell him ... These things embarrass the team, of which he was captain, and the club."
Icardi reacted to the decision by telling the club he could not play at Rapid Vienna in the Europa League on Thursday. He did not travel to Austria with the rest of the squad.
Instead, Icardi was at the club's training ground in Appiano Gentile, just outside Milan, on Thursday along with other non-traveling players.
"Mauro was included for the trip to Vienna but didn't want to be here. After lunch he told us that he didn't feel up to coming here with us," Spalletti said. "Obviously we're upset but there are things around that are disturbing him and the team. Now we have to just think about the match."
Icardi also posted a picture on social media of him receiving treatment on his right knee, perhaps hoping to explain to Inter fans why he wasn't going to Austria. Inter's next match is on Sunday against Sampdoria.
Although Icardi has scored loads of goals — he has 122 in 210 matches for Inter and is the ninth highest scorer in the club's history — he has also courted controversy.
In 2016, Inter's hard-core "ultra" fans demanded he be stripped of the captaincy after he offended them in his autobiography. Icardi was fined by Inter and made to remove the incendiary comments from the book.
His personal life has also been ridiculed by some. Nara is the ex-wife of former Sampdoria teammate Maxi Lopez.
But Icardi has managed to win back the fans in the past, partly by being the youngest player to reach the 100-goal mark in Serie A.
Lately, though, the goals have dried up.
Icardi had been again chasing the top-scorer award — a prize he won last season and in 2015 — with nine league goals this season. He also scored four times in six Champions League matches.
But he has not scored in Serie A since Dec. 15 — a run of seven matches and his longest goal drought at the club.
Icardi's struggles in front of net have coincided with Inter's poor run of results. The team beat Parma 1-0 on Saturday to end a four-match winless streak in all competitions.
The man who scored that lone against Parma — Lautaro Martinez, another Argentine — followed that up by scoring against Rapid Vienna as well in another 1-0 win, making sure Icardi's absence wasn't felt.
"We'll have a striker who's equally as strong, even if he has played less than Mauro," Spalletti said. "Lautaro showed us at Parma that he didn't receive his nickname of El Toro (The Bull) by chance."
Dhaka, Feb 14 (UNB) – Star-studded Bashundhara Kings maintained their all-win record to share top slot in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) Football with holders Dhaka Abahani Limited beating Rahmatganj Muslim Friends Society by 1-0 goal at their home venue Sheikh Kamal Stadium in Nilphamari on Thursday.
With the feat, Independent Cup champions Bashundhara Kings shared the top slot in the league table securing full 15 points from straight five matches while Dhaka Abahani also bagged 15 points, playing six matches, losing their lone match against the Kings.
This was the 3rd defeat for Rahmatganj MFS in the league and they remained winless playing six matches bagging only three points.
Bakhtiyar Duyshobekov scored the match winner in the 50th minute from a penalty (1-0).
The day’s other league match between two bottom teams -- newcomers NoFel Sporting Club and Team BJMC -- ended in a goalless draw at the Shaheed Bulu Stadium in Noakhali.
With this, Team BJMC and NoFel SC have secured two points each playing six and five matches respectively.
After a recess on Friday and Saturday, the 7th round of the league will begin on Sunday with Sheikh Jamal Dhanmodi Club taking on Sheikh Russel KC at 3:30 pm at the Bangabandhu National Stadium here while defending champions Dhaka Abahani Limited playing against Brothers Union Club at 6:30 pm at the same venue.
Amsterdam, Feb 14 (AP/UNB) — With a little help from the video assistant referee, defending champion Real Madrid overcame a spirited Ajax to win the first leg of its Champions League round-of-16 match 2-1 on Wednesday and take a big step toward the quarterfinals.
Substitute Marco Asensio scored a late winner to put Madrid in a strong position going into the second leg on March 5.
Real, winner of the last three Champions Leagues, recovered in the second half after being outplayed by underdog Ajax before the break at a packed Johan Cruyff Arena, when the hosts had a goal disallowed by VAR - the first time the video referee had overturned a Champions League goal.
Asensio, a 73rd-minute substitute, was unmarked at the far post as he tapped in a cross from the right by Dani Cavajal with just three minutes of regulation time to go.
"He's shown his development as a player," Madrid coach Santiago Solari said. "He did everything he had to do from the moment he came into the pitch. Not only the goal, which of course was very important for us."
Ajax had looked on course for a draw when Hakim Ziyech shot under Thibaut Courtois in the 75th minute to cancel out Karim Benzema's opener 15 minutes earlier.
The Amsterdam team went into Wednesday's match in something of a form crisis since the Dutch league's winter break. Their previously solid defense crumbled late last month in a 6-2 defeat to archrival Feyenoord and Erik ten Hag's team slumped to a 1-0 defeat on Saturday to Heracles Almelo.
But Ajax shook off its winter form dip before the break, pressing Madrid high up the pitch, combining well with slick, short passes and looking like the team that qualified second in its group behind Bayern Munich rather than the one that struggled in recent weeks.
"We have to improve," Ten Hag said. "Normally you don't create so many chances against a top team like Madrid. We did, but you have to be more ruthless. There we can learn from Madrid — they created less chances but scored more goals."
Real went into the match brimming with confidence from a run of six wins and one draw in its last seven matches. But it only really hit its stride in the second half, proving more clinical in front of goal.
Ajax, a four-time European champion that last won the title in 1995, looked to have taken the lead only to have VAR rule out Nicolas Tagliafico's 37th minute header because Dusan Tadic was in an offside position and impeding Courtois.
Ten Hag was not convinced by the video images he saw.
"I did not see offside and couldn't see a foul on the keeper," he said.
Solari said he had not seen the images.
Kasper Dolberg came close to levelling again in stoppage time, but Courtois stuck out a hand to block his effort as Madrid captain Sergio Ramos was made to work hard for the win in his 600th match for the club.
In the night's other round-of-16 match, Tottenham beat Dortmund 3-0, with all the goals coming in the second half at Wembley.
In Amsterdam, Benzema struck a powerful shot past Andre Onana on the hour after a strong run from the left by Vinicius Junior to put the 13-time European champion ahead.
Madrid's lead lasted 15 minutes before David Neres crossed from the left and substitute Dolberg let the ball run to Ziyech, who shot low under Courtois.
Ajax, in the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time since 2006, had lost its last six matches against Madrid. But it started confidently and Tadic nearly gave Ajax the lead, his 26th-minute shot hitting the post after beating Courtois.
Real created little in the first half. Vinicius Junior came closest for Madrid when he cut in from the left wing and shot on target only for Onana to palm the ball over the bar.
Dhaka, Feb 13 (UNB) – Saif Sporting Club advanced to the 2nd slot in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) Football beating Dhaka Mohammedan SC by 2-1 goals in the 6th round match at the Bangabandhu National Stadium here on Wednesday.
With the 4th victory, Saif SC have secured 13 points from six matches to move up to the 2nd slot while traditional black and white team Mohammedan SC went down to the 11th place in the league table with three points after suffering 4th consecutive defeats in their 5th matches.
In the day’s match, Russian forward Denis Bolshakov and Colombian defender Denier Cordoba scored one each for the Saif SC while substitute forward Amir Hakim Bappi scored the lone goal for the Mohammedans.
Denis put Saif SC ahead in the 11th minute by a spectacular shot (1-0) while defender Cordoba doubled the margin in the 47th minute (2-0).
Saif spoiled another chance in the 29th minute of the match as their Korean booter Park Seung-il missed a penalty. Saif SC got the spot kick when Mohammedan custodian Sarwar Jahan brought down onrushing Park in the danger zone.
Promising striker Bappi, who came to field in place of Taklis Ahmed, pulled the Mohammedan margin one back in the 67th minute (2-1).
Dhaka, Feb 13 (UNB) – Bangladesh District and Divisional Football Association (BDDFA) on Wednesday picked 30 players from Rajshahi Division to play in the proposed Sheikh Kamal U-20 National Football Championship scheduled for April next.
BDDFA Secretary General Tarafder Md Ruhul Amin distributed the “YES” card among 30 selected players from initially called 80 booters of eight districts of the division at a function at the Sankar Gobinda Chowdhury Stadium in Natore.
Secretary General of Bangladesh District and Divisional Sports Organisers’ Association Ashiqur Rahman Miku and General Secretary of Chattogram Divisional Sports Association Sirajuddin Mohammad Alamgir were also present at the function chaired by President of Natore District Football Association and General Secretary of Natore DSA Syed Mustaq Ali Mukul.
Former national footballers Hasanuzzaman Khan Bablu and Imtiaz Sultan Jony along with BDDFA selection panel picked the 30 players for a month-long training ahead of the Sheikh Kamal U-20 National Football.
Selected players are: Mirjaul Hossain, Ishaque Akond, Tushar Ali, Asaduzzaman Tushar, Rajib Hossain, Imon Ali, Gobinda Das, Sajib Ali, Nayeem Hossain, Kawser Khan, Zahidul Islam Likhon, Ashraful Alam, Mohammad Saju, Daniel Cruze, Shakil Ahmed, Abdur Rahat, Sabbir Hossain, Hasibul Islam, Mizanur Rahman, Shihabuddin, Rimon Sheikh, Niko Soren, Ashfaq Hossain, Shanta Islam, Asaduzzaman, Amirul Islam Babu, Abdullah Hossain, Mehedi Hasan, Tabrir Rana and Mohammad Shanta.