Jorge Sampaoli's number nine plans have been thrown into disarray with the new..." /> Kun v Icardi in Argentina’s World Cup number nine gamble - CricketSoccer

FIFA WC

Published on April 21st, 2018 | by Peter Coates

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Kun v Icardi in Argentina’s World Cup number nine gamble

Jorge Sampaoli’s number nine plans have been thrown into disarray with the news that Sergio Aguero is a huge doubt in the race for Russia 2018

Jorge Sampaoli has his 35-man World Cup squad already in mind, Racing Club striker Lautaro Martinez pays him a visit at the national team training complex to receive some instructions and discuss his possible role.

The plane tickets are booked to travel to Europe the following week, where Sampaoli would in turn speak with Sergio Agüero and Gonzalo Higuaín and everything for Argentina looked set.

If those three were indeed Sampaoli’s chosen number nine options then it appeared that Mauro Icardi was the odd man out. An unfairly brief trial during the back-end of a fraught qualifying campaign was hardly the best window for the Inter captain to showcase his talents but Sampaoli had seen enough.

Argentina looked to be heading to Russia relying on the familiar faces of Agüero and Higuaín with young upstart Martínez gate-crashing the party.

For many Sampaoli was already committing an error.

And then the predictable news broke.

“Agüero’s season is over? Here (at Man City), yeah. He will be out for four or five weeks. He is in Barcelona right now. We are going to fight to get him to the World Cup,” Pep Guardiola confirmed after the Argentinian had taken to Twitter to explain he had undergone knee surgery.

The operation had swiftly been booked in due to Manchester City already lifting the Premier League title and their Champions League aspirations over but while Agüero said he would be back training in no time, Homero D’agostino, one of Argentina’s team doctors was a little more pessimistic.

“A player undergoing arthroscopic surgery 60 days before the World Cup is a concern. The recovery will take no less than five weeks so it’s difficult that Agüero arrives 100 per cent.”

An unfit Agüero succumbed to a hamstring injury in Brazil four years ago, leaving Gonzalo Higuaín as Alejandro Sabella’s number nine and given the Juventus centre-forward’s reputation in an Argentina shirt for buckling under pressure, does Sampaoli risk making the same mistake?

Agüero firing on all cylinders is a huge asset to Argentina and understandably appears to be first choice but injury has already denied Sampaoli the opportunity to test this more than in a couple of friendlies. Without further preparation and left praying that the City record scorer returns without problems is a gamble.

With this in mind, Sampaoli’s expected itinerary in Europe now takes in Milan where Mauro Icardi will again be in consideration.

The polarising striker scored his 25th Serie A goal of the season last week, his best ever tally and the first Inter player to reach the milestone since Zlatan Ibrahimovic in 2008-09 and Ronaldo in 1997-98.

Whether you like Icardi or not, there is no questioning his status as an elite level finisher. Argentina are yet to see that in an Albiceleste shirt but the 25-year-old surely deserves as much of a chance as the likes of Agüero and Higuaín have had.

Kun’s injury may prompted a rethink for Sampaoli. If Agüero isn’t 100 per cent, do Argentina want under-fire Higuaín and untested Martínez as the fall-back options?

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About the Author

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Peter is a British football writer living in Buenos Aires, who specialises on Argentine football. His passion for the game in South America took him to Argentina in 2011 and aside from starting his own site 'Golazo Argentino', he has covered the national side for The Independent and acts as WhoScored's expert on the Primera División.



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