Mauro Icardi’s mentality has been praised by Inter head coach Frank de Boer despite sections of the club’s support calling for the striker to be stripped of the captaincy.
Inter ultras have hit out at the Argentina forward after he criticised them in his autobiography, with the club’s president Javier Zanetti critical of Icardi as a result.
But De Boer backed his skipper after he faced down the critics in a 1-0 win over Southampton in the Europa League on Thursday.
“Icardi played very well against Southampton and worked hard off the ball,” De Boer said ahead of Sunday’s Serie A game at Atalanta.
“He always wants to score, but in my view he sent a signal to the team: ‘I am the captain and I am the first to work hard’.
“It was not easy, but I am happy with what he did. Tomorrow is going to be a difficult match and I want to see how my team is doing. We have our philosophy and in my view in the second part of the Southampton game we played better.”
While Icardi continues to face criticism, there has also been speculation about De Boer’s future, but the Dutchman is unconcerned about rumours he could be replaced.
“I just focus on working hard, as it’s the only thing I can do right now,” he said. “I have faith in everyone.
“My squad is made up of many men and it’s natural to be unhappy when you don’t play. I am very honest. Only 11 can start, so I must make my choices. It’s not easy, but that’s my job.”
De Boer hinted he will change his tactics against Atalanta, with midfielder Ever Banega among those who may be in line to take on a different role.
“At times it is better to play with a more advanced midfielder like Banega, at others with more defensive profiles,” he said. “The work of the full-backs is also important, but above all the mentality. We must attack the space, just as Joao Mario did against Cagliari.
“We must always play in an attacking way, but from the start, not after 20 minutes. In my view, discipline and approach are very important. I want to play in this way. I made a couple of changes against Southampton, but it was right for the situation.
“This season we have adapted to the opposition twice already, the first being against Chievo. We want to win, the Saints are a strong side and physically imposing. They were in better shape than us, so it was only right we adapt to them.
“In general we mustn’t play with the handbrake on, as when we have the ball at our feet we need to focus only on our style of football. We made many crosses against Southampton, more than 20. That’s extremely positive, but we created only one actual scoring opportunity.”