x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Serie A strikers Icardo and Bojan start 2013 with a bang

Sampdoria's Mauro Icardi announces himself on the big stage while AC Milan's Bojan Krkic is back with a smile, writes Ian Hawkey.

Sampdoria's Mauro Icardi of Argentina (L) celebrates after scoring a goal during the Italian serie A football match between Juventus and Sampdoria, at the
Sampdoria's Mauro Icardi of Argentina (L) celebrates after scoring a goal during the Italian serie A football match between Juventus and Sampdoria, at the "Juventus Stadium" in Turin, on January 6, 2013. AFP PHOTO / FABIO MUZZI *** Local Caption *** 204652-01-08.jpg

Sampdoria's Mauro Icardi might have been on the other side of the world had it not been for the insistence of Delio Rossi, his new head coach.

The teenager, who had been called up by Argentina for important Under 20 qualifiers, had been assured by Sampdoria last month he would be free to fulfil his international date. But a change of coach, Rossi having replaced Ciro Ferrara, also meant a change of mind.

Icardi's two goals against Juventus, in the most surprising result in a post-winter break resumption of Serie A which contained a few shocks, will have been noted with approval in Argentina, even if they would have liked him to have been playing for them.

The striker's big breakthrough in club football has been anticipated for while, and scoring twice for a struggling team reduced to 10 men against the reigning Italian champions might just be a watershed moment.

Icardi has been at Sampdoria for two years, the first six months of those on loan from Barcelona, who then sold him for around €400,000 (Dh1.9 million), a tidy profit on a player they had spotted at 14 years old in Rosario, Lionel Messi's hometown, and aggressively pursued.

Icardi felt honoured to be enrolled at Barca's fabled La Masia academy, but like many of the junior strikers there, was later obliged to acknowledge that not all the graduates become a Messi.

But they can still thrive elsewhere. Which is a subject Icardi might share some reflections on with an opponent on Sunday, as he spearheads Sampdoria's attempt to topple another giant with the visit of AC Milan.

There, Bojan Krkic, another former pupil at La Masia, may also be turning a corner in his often frustrating career.

Bojan, born in Spain and a record-breaking goalscorer in the Barcelona youth ranks, has been in Italy for a season and a half. His year with Roma was largely unfulfilling.

There, too often he looked like a young man wrestling with the disappointment of being told by Barca he was surplus to their needs.

He began 2013 with a smile, though. His second goal in successive games for Milan in the win over Siena brought plaudits from the Milan hierarchy, the vice-president Adriano Galliani comparing Bojan's finishing with that of Jose Altafini, the Milan goalscoring legend of the 1960s.

Galliani said: "Bojan has the technique of a player who grew up with the best team in the world."

With Alex Pato now gone from Milan, and fellow Brazilian Robinho apparently keen to head home, the young Spaniard can expect more first XI opportunities to come his way.



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