Milan (AFP) – Inter Milan coach Luciano Spalletti praised former captain Mauro Icardi as looking like “a new player” after nearly two months on the sidelines but said he still won’t play on Sunday against Lazio in Serie A.
Icardi has not played since February 9 after being replaced as club captain by Samir Handanovic amid a contract dispute.
The 26-year-old is back training, and had hoped to return against Lazio as Inter look to consolidate third place and Champions League football next season.
“In some ways I’ve seen him as being like a new player as he was out for so long,” said Spalletti of the Argentine.
“I still hold that he can’t be ready yet to help his teammates so he won’t be in the squad tomorrow (Sunday).
“He has returned from a long period of absence and there are new things that have happened to be evaluated.”
Inter beat city rivals AC Milan 3-2 before the international break, and are two points ahead of Gennaro Gattuso’s side who fell 1-0 to Sampdoria on Saturday.
Lazio have a game in hand and are six points behind AC Milan.
“Lazio are a direct competitor for the Champions League and, as in the past, they are having a great season,” Spalletti added.
“The three points become heavier because they compete with us. We must show continuity after the victory in the derby.”
Dutch defender Stefan de Vrij will miss Sunday’s game against his former club, along with Argentina striker Lautaro Martinez, after injuries picked up on international duty.
“It’s clear this international break has caused some issues for us,” added the Inter coach.
“We’ve options up front and I’m convinced that they will give us the possibility of reaching our objective.”
Inter are 25 points behind leaders Juventus, and seven adrift of second-placed Napoli.
Icardi — joint top scorer in Serie A last season with 29 goals — has scored 15 goals in all competitions for the club this term.
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