Lautaro Martínez, the captain that Inter snatched from Atlético: “He was 99% done”

Lautaro Martínez (Bahía Blanca – Argentina, 1997) is experiencing his best season with the Inter shirt. Against Salernitana he scored goal number 23 so far this year, with which he became the Nerazzurri’s eighth all-time top scorer with 125 goals. He surpassed Mauro Icardi and is now the Argentine with the highest scorer in the history of an Interista team that he will lead this Tuesday (9:00 p.m.) against Atlético. Curiously, the world champion was able to play the Champions League round of 16 on the other side, because at the end of 2017 he had an agreement signed with the rojiblancos.

At that time Lautaro was a 20-year-old forward who stood out in the Racing de Avellaneda. He had grown through the ranks of the ‘Academy’ after excelling in his native Bahía Blanca. He took on the challenge of being professional with an inappropriate maturity. He even asked his mother for specific food for match days when he was no more than ten years old.. He took advantage of all the opportunities that were offered to him, like when he became the top scorer in the Alcudia International Tournament (Valencia).

A contract of six seasons and 12 million euros

That exhibition attracted the interest of Real Madrid, Atlético and Valencia, which would increase with another great performance in the 2017 South American U-20. His life has always been behind a ball. His father, Mario, played for 21 years and reached the Argentine second level. Even her grandmother was one of the precursors of women’s soccer in Bahía Blanca, a land of basketball. In fact, the youngest of her brothers, Jano, is a promising point guard. Lautaro had to choose between the two sports.

Lautaro Martínez, during his time as a Racing de Avellaneda player. / EFE

He opted for soccer, although on television he prefers basketball courts. Nor did Boca Juniors and San Lorenzo prefer him, with whom he did trials (the ‘xeneize’ would try to sign him before leaving for Europe). They accused him of being slow or lacking adequate technique, defects that they did not see in Racing de Avellaneda. In October 2015, the ‘Bull’ – the nickname he receives because of one of his celebrations in which he simulates two horns – debuted in the Argentine First Division, replacing Diego Milito. This was essential, first as an example, and then in the negotiation that led him to Inter.

In the twilight of 2017, Andrea Berta, Atlético’s sports director, moved to Argentina. Lautaro was going to sign a six-season contract. It was to Simeone’s taste. The red and white team would pay 12 million and, as happens in this type of operation, they would leave him in Racing on loan until the end of the season to be able to play in the Copa Libertadores. “99% the pass is done,” acknowledged Roly Zárate, Lautaro’s agent, of whom there is a photograph posing with an Atlético folder and a pre-contract. Until Inter put its machinery into action, as Piero Ausilio, Inter’s sporting director, recalled in an interview with ‘Radio TV Serie A’.

Milito and Zanetti to avoid signing for Atlético

“It was a special story: in fact, he was already an Atlético player. We took a plane to risk our 1% with the risk of making a fool of ourselves, but they were four crazy days. The only thing missing was the last agreement between the player and Atlético, but There was a clause that Lautaro didn’t want and we did great teamwork“explained the ‘interista’ manager.

Although the operation would not have been possible without the intervention of two Argentine legends of the ‘nerazzuri’. Firstly, the aforementioned Milito, “who got very harsh with the president of Racing Club when everything was already closed.” Secondly, Javier Zanetti worked with Zárate, the representative. A great game by Lautaro had to be added to the cocktailauthor of a ‘hat trick’ that raised the bill to pay up to 25 million euros.

As happened with his departure to Avellaneda, Lautaro’s great challenge was not football. The homesickness was a key element that almost made him leave Racing. The health of one of his brothers suffered due to the player’s absence. His family even told him that he would move to Buenos Aires to be closer. In the early days in Milan, the desire to take advantage of the adventure in Europe and then return was also recurrent.

The thorn of the World Cup in Qatar: “I locked myself up and cried”

That’s why his circumstantial role in the World Cup in Qatar hurt him so much. Lautaro was the scorer of Lionel Scaloni’s triumphant cycle, but Inter’s shortcomings in attack made him force more than necessary. “I didn’t want to stop, because Correa and Lukaku were injured. Only I was left as a forward. I was playing blindfolded, with pills and infiltrating“, confessed the striker, who arrived between cottons in the debut against Saudi Arabia.

They disallowed two goals, Argentina lost in their debut and Lautaro was injured. Julián Álvarez ended up taking his position and the ‘Toro’ contribution was reduced to the penalty shoot-outs. Little and intense, but decisive. “I locked myself in, cried and had a hard time in my room.. I had my daughter come a lot to give me the touch of happiness and affection that she needed. I was lucky to have my family close,” said the Inter player.

Lautaro Martínez, in the background, during the celebration of the World Cup won by Argentina. / EP

Lautaro was more obsessed with the end of his career than with the fact of doing it, because he had always lived in the rearview mirror. Even after becoming World Champion with Argentina and being on the verge of a Champions League final, the striker assured: “My dream is to return to Racing”. However, the mental framework is completely out of date for one of the fittest strikers on the ‘Old Continent’.

Lautaro Martínez and Marcus Thuram, a lethal duo

It’s February and Lautaro is already just one goal away from surpassing his best records in Serie A, which Inter commands with an iron fist, which won the Arabian Super Cup. “We approach every game in the same way. Sometimes it is difficult, but we always try to recover the ball up front, because that gives you more opportunities to score and win. Against Atlético we will come out with the strength of this group. New players have arrived, but they have all made themselves available to the team,” analyzed the Argentine after the last victory in the ‘calcio’.

Simone Inzaghi’s set is an example of reliability, with a 3-5-2 that he has used since his time at Lazio. It is a system in which the movements and spaces occupied by the forwards are of great importance. Lautaro is a fixture who has found a perfect ally from the same estate as him: Marcus Thuram, son of the mythical Lilian. Together they have 35 goals and 16 assists.

They are an infallible machinery that has made us forget the duo that formed Lukaku and Dzeko. The 25 million that Inter once invested in the Argentine are more than amortized in a player who has a rating of 110. The German arrived at zero cost from Mönchengladbach. The one who never did it was Lautaro to Atlético, because of “99%” of possibilities that Inter, with Milito and Zanetti, became an absolute minority.

2024-02-20 07:11:13
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