Spalletti praises Icardi stand-in Martinez for match-winning display

Star striker Icardi was not involved on Thursday after an eventful few days, but the Nerazzurri boss was happy to rely on another Argentine attacker

Luciano Spalletti hailed Lautaro Martinez’s contribution as he inspired Inter to victory at Rapid Vienna in the absence of deposed captain Mauro Icardi.

Martinez struck the only goal to earn a precious away win, just as he did at Parma on Saturday, although there was added pressure on the forward on Thursday due to Icardi’s withdrawal from the squad.

The Argentina international had earlier been stripped of the captaincy, with Samir Handanovic taking on the role, before appearing to hint at an injury on social media as Spalletti revealed the striker’s decision to sit out of the Europa League tie.

Martinez was subsequently chosen to lead the line and Spalletti praised the young star’s all-round display in Austria.

“He had an important responsibility and you have to praise him because he made a great performance,” said the Inter coach. “He held the ball up, he pressed, he won the penalty and scored it. Much of the result is due to his desire to fight for every ball.

“He is at ease in the centre-forward role, but he will have to prove that he can always be lethal inside the area.”

Meanwhile, Spalletti does not expect there will be any issues with Icardi despite a decision that both he and sporting director Piero Ausilio described as “painful”.

“I think he will react in a professional manner,” he said. “Just as we had difficulty making this decision, he had difficulty receiving the news. But we go to work, there is nothing different.”

Handanovic was delighted with Inter’s defeat of Rapid, yet the goalkeeper was keen to avoid discussion of his new role.

“I’m very happy to wear the armband at a big club, but I want the performances of the team to be spoken about and not who wears the armband,” he said.