Spalletti dismisses Icardi absence as source of Inter revival following Europa League progression

The Nerazzurri swept aside Rapid Wien 4-0 on Thursday to make it four wins in four, and three without their former captain

Inter coach Luciano Spalletti has played down the ongoing absence of striker Mauro Icardi from the side as having inspired a recent upturn in fortunes.

The Nerazzurri swept aside Rapid Wien 4-0 in Thursday night’s Europa League clash to seal a 5-0 aggregate win that takes them through to the last 16 of the competition.

Victory marked their fourth consecutive win on the back of a similar losing streak, and came once again without Icardi, who has missed their last three games amid speculation he is set to exit the club after being stripped of the captaincy.

However, Spalletti has reinforced that the improvement offered by his side is less the result of a more harmonious team spirit and down to simple, effective hard work in his post-match comments.

"It is correct to say that Inter are improving and making fewer errors than before, but it is not fair to allude to something else that happened during this period," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"Let's view it from the right angle here, which is that the team is working hard and making fewer mistakes.

"Let's not talk all the time about this [Icardi]. Let's focus on the players who were out there today, playing, running, getting kicked and not lose sight of the reality of the situation.

"We are trying to reach this level as our normality, without the ups and downs. We need to get that sorted as soon as possible, because again last season we did well only for spells."

With Icardi relieved of his duties, goalkeeper Samir Handanovic has taken over the captain's armband at the San Siro, but he insists any number of senior players could lead the team.

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“The armband is not a title of nobility or a trophy," he said.

“It is a great responsibility and at Inter an honour. We don't need just one person wearing the armband, because we need five or six leaders who push the squad forward. It doesn't matter who wears the armband.”

Inter return to action in Serie A on Sunday when they travel to Fiorentina looking to further cement their spot in the top four.