Football produces irresistible forms of entertainment both on and off the pitch. Recent drama surrounding Mauro Icardi and his agent and wife Wanda Nara is just one chapter of a long-standing feud, and you can't help but keep up with the 'Icardashians'.
Inter superstar Icardi was recently stripped of his club captaincy, seemingly as a result of a stand-off over contract discussions and amid reported interest from Real Madrid. At the heart of the Argentine's contract dispute, however, is his agent and wife Nara, who plays a key part in his life – both personally and professionally.
But who exactly is Wanda Nara, and what influence has she had over her husband's career?
Whenever the Inter striker's name is mentioned, his wife is touted in almost the same breath. They are a duality, and it is almost impossible to consider Icardi without also considering his omnipresent wife and agent. The two are intertwined permanently, for better and for worse.
Icardi chose Nara, a TV presenter and model, to become his agent in 2016 after he sacked his former long-term representative. Since then, their relationship has been a constant source of discussion and strife.
“I started first with one of his image contracts, little things, which then developed naturally over time," Nara previously said about her decision to represent her husband as his agent.
"Mauro had concluded his contract with his attorney and saw that I followed in the footsteps of my sister’s career. I had begun to study law in Argentina but then I gave up.
"He knows that I know about these types of things. Everyone has always respected me in this field, because they know the role that Mauro has assigned to me.”
As an agent, Nara is notorious for speaking publicly about her husband's career as a footballer. As Icardi's wife, the controversial circumstances of their marriage reportedly caused a ripple effect in his football career, most notably his involvement in the Argentina national team.
Always one to generate unwelcome headlines and a stranger to the idea of discretion, Nara frequently speaks about Icardi and Inter on Mediaset's talk show Tiki Taka where she works as a presenter, having recently criticised her husband's team-mates for not putting him in good positions.
"More than giving Mauro a new contract, I’d prefer Inter to sign someone capable of giving him five good balls in every game," she said.
And in response to the stripping of the captaincy, Nara likened Icardi's loss of the armband to him losing a crucial limb: "Some say the armband is meaningless, but for Mauro it’s like taking away a leg more than an arm."
She later stated that she had rocks thrown at her car as a result of the decision to strip Icardi of the captaincy, with the relationship between Inter and the Icardi party now tense.
Inter coach Luciano Spalletti explained: "There are certain things surrounding the lad which need to be fixed. These things have caused, and continue to cause, embarrassment to the team and the club of which he was captain."
It's hard not to think of Nara as one of the "things" that Spalletti referred to.
The 26-year-old's entire relationship with Nara was built on a bedrock of controversy. Nara, an Argentine media personality and model, was previously married to Icardi's former Sampdoria team-mate and friend Maxi Lopez.
Nara and Lopez divorced in late 2013 and she married Icardi a few months later in May 2014, though the sides tell differing stories about when Icardi and Nara's relationship actually began. The circumstances of Icardi's marriage to Nara brought him a huge amount of animosity in his native Argentina, with key figures such as Diego Maradona having publicly condemned the Inter striker.
"He [Icardi] didn’t play, granted, but he was there," Maradona said in 2017, via Football Italia . “You can’t leave [Sergio] Aguero out of the first list and call this Pata de lana [someone who loves another man’s wife].
“The one with the woman who wants to get involved in football and be his agent, the one who plays ball with Maxi Lopez’s children. I know the story well."
Icardi is a top-class forward at club level but has only been called up to the Argentina side on eight occasions, earning his first senior cap in 2013.
Speculation began in 2016, however, that Lopez's friendships with key Argentina players are what led to Icardi's exclusion from the national team. But former coach Edgardo Bauza stated that Icardi's personal life had nothing to do with the decision and that individual players do not dictate how the team is built.
The forward received his first Argentina call-up after more than three years in May 2017 under Jorge Sampaoli, however, and featured in friendlies against Singapore and Brazil later that June.
But the striker was then snubbed from the 2018 World Cup qualification games against Brazil and Colombia and was ultimately and glaringly left out of the final team for the 2018 World Cup, with Cristian Pavon given the nod to compete in Russia instead.
The fallout doesn't end with the national team. During a Serie A match in April 2014 between Sampdoria and Inter, Lopez pointedly refused to shake Icardi's hand, which led the media to dub the game as the 'Wanda derby'.
Two seasons later, Lopez once again refused to shake his former friend's hand during a Serie A fixture against Torino.
And now, the Inter player has been involved with a self-imposed ban in response to being stripped of the captaincy. He was left out of the squad for the first leg of their Europa League last-32 tie against Rapid Vienna, and was once again not part of the team that won against Sampdoria.
The complex family drama has also reared its ugly head on Twitter, with his family members now publicly getting involved with the spat through social media.
After Inter announced that Icardi was no longer captain, his sister Ivana publicly accused Wanda of ruining his career and driving him away from his family.
"The only one who doesn't realise nobody can stand [Wanda] is my brother," tweeted Ivana in 2019. Icardi then retaliated by challenging his sister to "worry about using the time you waste on Twitter with bulls**t to get a job."
Como esto no va a pasar, preocupate en ocupar tu tiempo qué desperdicias en tw con pavadas en TRABAJAR!!! Ya que tus intenciones no van a conseguir ningún beneficio. Acordate de ver a tus otros 6 hermanos tambien, ya que nunca pediste por ellos en tw. Chauu!!— MauroIcardi (@MauroIcardi) February 16, 2019
"Stop being so stupid and open your eyes," replied Ivana, delivering the last word on Nara and describing her as a "snake who is performing witchcraft".
Naturally, Lopez joined in the Twitter shenanigans, offering: "So much nonsense from this supposed lady. When you try to displace your problems, you start speaking nonsense to try to solve a problem that sooner or later has to arrive."
Years on, it's clear that the drama surrounding the Icardashians is nowhere near its final chapter. It could also potentially just be the beginning of it all, should Juventus decide to take action on their interest in Icardi.