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Why stats prove Inter Milan's Mauro Icardi is one of the world's best strikers

By Sam McGuire Football Whispers

Mauro Icardi is a phenomenon. The Inter forward has scored 20 or more Serie A goals in three of the last four season and he’s on track to make that four in five this term.

The Nerazzurri No.9 has eight goals in just 860 minutes of action this season to take his tally since the start of the 2014/15 campaign to 99 in 12,360 minutes – a goal every 124 minutes.

His goals in the UEFA Champions League this season, coming against Tottenham Hotspur and FC Barcelona, have put Inter in a commanding position in Group B. A win against PSV Eindhoven at San Siro should be enough to see the Italian side through to the last-16.

But despite his prolific return playing for a club considered to be part of Europe’s very elite, Icardi isn’t spoken of in the same breath as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski and Sergio Agüero.

With this in mind, we’ve decided to take a look at how the deadly Argentine ranks amongst the very best goalscorers playing the game today.

Goals 

The currency of forwards. The modern game demands more from attackers, with work rate a key factor for many coaches, but what it all boils down to his how reliable these players are at sticking the ball in the back of the net.

Messi is lauded for individual brilliance and his moments of magic but it’s his staggering goal return that continues to amaze people. The Barcelona No.10, who finished fifth in the Ballon d’Or vote despite a stellar season for Barça, has managed 0.84 goals per 90 in LaLiga this term, just 0.01 more than Icardi has averaged in Serie A.

Both Argentines are ahead of Ronaldo (0.72), Agüero (0.74), Lewandowski (0.58), Harry Kane (0.57), Luis Suárez (0.73) and Mohamed Salah (0.52) this season. The fact Icardi is only behind the great Messi shows that when it comes to being a reliable goalscorer, he’s amongst the very best.

xG

The xG (expected goals) metric is fairly new in soccer. It gives a value out of one to every shot a player has. The better position a shot is taken from, the higher the value will be. It's a way to help judge attackers on whether their goal return is sustainable or if it’s simply a hot streak.

In isolation, xG doesn’t tell the whole story. Those who are clinical often outperform their xG totals. Whereas those attackers who rely on sheer volume of chances will have a high xG total but their goal return will be slightly under it.

Icardi and Messi are the only two players outperforming their xG this season. The Inter man has an xG90 total of 0.61 – the fourth best in Serie A this term – while his goals per 90 return is the very best in the league. It’s a similar story with the Barcelona maestro. His xG90 total of 0.64 ranks him third in La Liga but he’s actually overperforming by 0.2 when it comes to goals per 90.

Ronaldo is 0.22 down on his xG, while Lewandowski (0.13), Salah (0.09), Aguero (0.08), Kane (0.08) and Suarez (0.08) are all under their expected goals per 90 totals for the season.

Icardi’s xG90 total might be only higher than Kane’s but he’s showing that he isn’t a player who relies on a hatful of chances to put the ball into the back of the net. He’s averaging just 3.2 per 90 minutes, with 26 attackers from Serie A averaging more. For further context, Ronaldo, since his move to Turin, has been taking 6.22 shots per match.

The Inter captain isn’t just holding his own when being compared to the elite, he’s actually performing better, and more reliably, than some of the biggest names in soccer.

A clinical marksman who is capable of the sublime and the ridiculous while also being consistent enough to be dubbed reliable. The Serie A giants have a unique talent at their disposal.

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