Taking time out from an epic Nike Strike Night in London, Mauro Icardi talks everything from his ruthless streak in front of goal to his array of tattoos, mapped out like extracts from his unfinished autobiography.
A man who has never shied away from any spotlight, Icardi is embracing the weight of the captaincy and number 9 shirt at Inter Milan, whilst remaining light on his toes to strike in the box at pace.
Going back to the early days of playing football. What can you remember about the pitches you were raised on, where you learnt your game?
I've always been a striker. I took a lot of my game from the lessons I learnt back from when I was growing up. They have stuck with me through all my life right through to the style of game I play today. That’s who I am and I always carry those lessons with me.
Were you as ruthless in front of goal back then as you are today?
Yeah, I actually scored a lot of goals from when I was really young. It’s always been something I’ve done. If you look on YouTube, there’s actually a couple of clips that have some kind of 500 goals count which is pretty cool to have about me.
Who were those players up top that you idolised as a kid? Are they some that really got you excited about the game?
Batistuta was my idol for as long as I can remember. My strength is to score goals just like him. Of course, being Argentine and seeing a player like Batistuta, I would look up to him. He was incredible to watch and I’d say he is a big inspiration in the way I play the game.
When Nike are involved it's a game that comes with style and swagger. How much do you like having a bit of character and personality to your game?
There is a lot of style, especially when it comes to nights like the Strike Night. An event like this is me completely. It has my characteristics and the way I like to play. I like to be able to have the opportunity to be on the stage in front of everybody and play football in this way. It’s different.
It’s definitely different. Going head to head with other players, are you excited to go up against the others?
It is a great challenge and being able to go up against great players of this calibre and quality. It’s also a good moment to have a bit of fun and get to know the players here. It’s great to be involved in something like this.
How much do you live off the moment when you're face to face with the keeper?
That is what my characteristics on the pitch and my style of playing is all about. I love that perspective on the game and it’s what I live for when I’m on the pitch. It is what is expected of me and it’s where I’m most confident.
In terms of your personality would you say you're more of a relaxed finisher with a comfortable side foot or do you like to put your foot right through it?
I’m the kind of player that when I’m going to score, I’m really going to score. I’m very aggressive in front of goal and that’s the way I like to play the game. I’m confident that when there’s an opportunity to get a goal, it’s always going to result in a goal. I want to make sure it hits the back of the net with power.
What about off the pitch in comparison? Are you quite a chilled guy?
I’m a lot more patient, a lot more calm. I’ve got to get used to having five kids in the house so I have to have a lot of patience and [laughs] I can’t bring that aggression I have on the pitch back home. So I am a lot more relaxed at home.
What about when it comes to the preparation. Do you spend a lot of time constantly perfecting your game when normal training ends?
There’s a lot of stuff I like to do after training. I do stay after training often to work on free-kicks, penalties and also crosses into the box and finishing them. Those are always the kind of things that make and help me develop as a player.
It's a whirlwind trip in and out of London for Strike Night. Is that the way you enjoy your football - fast paced and full of life?
For me, the most important thing with anything I’m doing is to win. Regardless of the way you end up winning, that’s all I want to do in whatever I do. That’s always the most important thing for me.
You get to play in the San Siro every other week. How would you describe what goes through your head when you step out wearing the captain's armband?
It is a big honour to be playing as a captain for Inter and at the same time, walking into the San Siro. It’s one of the most renowned stadiums with such a huge history and it’s always full. It’s one of the greatest in the world so it’s a great honour but at the end of the day what I want to do is make sure I’m leading them out to win.
What about wearing that number nine shirt? You’ve got two and seven on your wrist, can you tell us about that?
The twenty seven is actually the date that I met my wife but I like the coincidence that two plus seven is nine so it ties into my shirt number. There’s a lot of other coincidences for me that stretch with that number so it means a lot to me.
Tell us about your tattoos. Have you found a real appreciation for them?
Each tattoo for me represents something special for me in my life. There were a lot of people when I started getting them that would say to me that at some point I’m going to get bored but for me since they mean so much personally, it feels like a natural way to express myself.
Which mean the most to you, can you show us some?
The one of my wife is special. They are done by a friend of mine from Argentina who lives in Spain. Whenever I want to get a tattoo, I get him to come to Milan and he does it for me.
View the full Nike Strike Night Event Recap here.