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ESPN FC  By ESPN

Real Madrid watching Mauro Icardi closely - Argentina's Jorge Sampaoli

Inter Milan playmaker Mauro Icardi is a long-term target for Real Madrid, his Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli has said.

Sampaoli spoke to journalists at the airport in Buenos Aires as he returned from a European tour.

"I spoke to Icardi," he said, "and I told him that, if he doesn't relax in the second part of the season, he will be called up for the World Cup this summer.

"I also know that Real Madrid are following him closely."

Icardi has been linked with a move away from San Siro in recent days, but Inter Milan have always denied the rumours.

Mauro Icardi joined Inter Milan from Sampdoria in July 2013.

Real Madrid are unlikely to sign any players in the current transfer window. However, the scenario will probably change during the summer, as Los Blancos will be on the lookout for a goal scorer.

Icardi has scored 18 goals in 24 appearances with Inter this season and is the second top scorer in Serie A, second only to Lazio's Ciro Immobile.

On Monday he posted an image on his Instagram account which read "to say goodbye means to grow," with the caption "Goodbye" and a pair of waving emoji.

Many fans interpreted the post as an early farewell, though there were those who said Icardi's farewell was addressed to his teammate Marcelo Brozovic, who is soon to leave Inter.

With Champions League football next season likely to weigh on Icardi's decision on whether to stay at Inter, the Nerazzurri are fourth in Serie A, only three points ahead of Roma, and haven't won in the last seven league games.

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