Milan: Red-hot striker Mauro Icardi said on Sunday he hopes his goals will propel fallen giants Inter Milan back into the UEFA Champions League reckoning this season.
Icardi was joint top-scorer in Serie A last season with 22 goals and was one of Inter`s few positives as they languished in eighth place and failed to qualify for Europe. The 22-year-old Argentine shared the Italian league scoring honours with Verona veteran Luca Toni.
He declared his commitment to manager Roberto Mancini`s rebuilding project at the San Siro by signing a new four-year contract extension with the club in June.
"I just signed a new deal because the club is building a great team," Icardi told a news conference after training ahead of Monday`s International Champions Cup match against Real Madrid in the southern Chinese metropolis of Guangzhou.
"We hope to have a big year and secure Champions League football. That`s the aim.
"We`re working hard to boost our fitness levels. We want to be ready so we can have a great season," he added.
Inter lost against city rivals AC Milan on Saturday night in nearby Shenzhen. Mancini was pleased to report a clean bill of health as he prepared for the daunting task of facing Real`s superstars, who romped past Manchester City 4-1 in Melbourne on Friday night with Cristiano Ronaldo playing a starring role.
"There`s no injury worries so that`s good," Mancini told AFP. "It`s always difficult with two games so close together.
"That`s why we rotated against AC Milan yesterday. The main thing is not picking up injuries. We`ll change again. We want to play good football.
"Real Madrid are probably a better team than us at the moment and further ahead in pre-season.
"We want to win every game but it`s more important that we test ourselves, work hard and improve to be ready for the start of Serie A."
When Inter showed up for training at the 54,000-capacity Tianhe Stadium Sunday they were greeted by hundreds of Chinese fans clad in the famous blue and black `nerazzurri`, waiting patiently outside in the sticky heat for a glimpse of their idols.
"We`re happy to be here. I want to thank all the fans in China for the immense support they give us," said Mancini, paying tribute to the fans.
Monday will be Real`s first pre-season outing on Chinese soil for four years, while Inter will conclude a three-match tour that has seen them lose 1-0 twice already, to Bayern Munich in Shanghai as well as against AC Milan on Saturday.
Real, who also played AS Roma in Melbourne last week, drawing 0-0 and losing on penalties, will face AC Milan in Shanghai on Thursday in the concluding match of the pre-season International Champions Cup before flying back to Spain.