Lautaro Martinez sees winning the Scudetto as vindication for his decision to stay at Inter, where he has formed a superb partnership with fellow forward Romelu Lukaku.

Martinez was heavily linked with a move to Barcelona throughout the 2019-20 season, with the player even discussing a possible switch to Camp Nou with fellow Argentine Lionel Messi.

However, the 23-year-old instead opted to stick around at San Siro, remaining a key part of Antonio Conte's squad as the Nerazzurri secured a first Serie A title since 2010.

Inter had finished second in the previous season but have kicked on after that disappointment, running away from their rivals since the turn of the year to be crowned champions and end Juventus' nine-year dominance in the competition.

"I am very happy to be at Inter, even more so after this Scudetto which has been missing for so many years," Martinez said in an interview with Sky Sport Italia.

"We are experiencing an incredible moment and I cannot think of anything other than being here.

"I was close to Barcelona, I had also spoken with Messi. Afterwards, I made a choice - I chose to stay here and I was not wrong."

Martinez's combination with Lukaku has been a key factor for Inter, the pair scoring 75 league goals between them in their two seasons together at the club.

Lukaku has been a revelation since joining from Manchester United. After 23 goals in his debut Serie A campaign, he is at 22 this time around with two games to play, as well as providing 11 assists.

The Belgian striker has been ruthless too, converting 52.8 per cent of what Opta describes as 'big' chances, which is where a player is expected to score.

Martinez – who has 16 goals and five assists in the league in 2020-21 – believes the dynamic duo have continually pushed each other to raise the bar under Conte, in part due to the competition provided by having the experienced Alexis Sanchez in the squad.

"We built our relationship from the first day he arrived," Martinez said of Lukaku.

"The year before he had watched Inter's matches and we talked about this for two or three hours after the first training session. He speaks Spanish, we understood each other immediately.

"I always tell him that there is a match between the three of us, because every training session we try to improve and give our best.

"Each one has taken a step forward this year and this is important for the growth of Inter and this group."

The long-term futures of Jesse Lingard and Jadon Sancho are set to become clearer soon.

Lingard has impressed on loan from Manchester United at West Ham, reviving his career as David Moyes' side push to secure European football for next season.

England international Sancho, meanwhile, has dazzled since moving to Germany - but is he now ready to return home?

 

TOP STORY - LINGARD AND SANCHO TO SWAP PLACES

The Sun reports that Manchester United will offer Jesse Lingard to Borussia Dortmund as part of a swap deal for Jadon Sancho.

United chased Sancho last year but were unable to land the winger due to Dortmund's asking price.

It is understood the value held by the Bundesliga club is around £100million (€116m), so Lingard's inclusion may help drive that down and seal a deal.

 

ROUND-UP

- The Times claims that Manchester City have formalised the top four players on their off-season shopping list in forwards Erling Haaland, Harry Kane, Lautaro Martinez and Andre Silva.

- Manchester United are preparing a bid for Atletico Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente worth £68m (€79m), reports the Mirror.

- Off-contract Southampton full-back Ryan Bertrand is attracting interest from Leicester City, claims the Leicester Mercury.

- Per Marca, Barcelona have an agreement in place to sign Memphis Depay, who is soon to be out of contract at Lyon. The Dutch forward is set to be reunited with Ronald Koeman at Camp Nou.

Lautaro Martinez's contract renewal discussions are "on standby" until Inter's "situation" becomes clearer, according to the striker's agent Alejandro Camano.

Martinez, 23, is approaching the end of his third season in Italy, with 2020-21 already his most prolific in Serie A having scored 16 times in 36 matches.

Once a target for Barcelona, speculation around Martinez has been much quieter this season, with the exception of tentative claims lately that Real Madrid see him as a potential alternative to Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland.

The Argentina international has two years left on his Inter contract, but he and Camano seem reluctant to rush into a new agreement.

Although the club have just won their first Scudetto since 2010, Inter have significant financial problems, with Sky Sport Italia recently claiming president Steven Zhang has asked the players to give up their wages for two months to ease the burden.

Inter vice-president Javier Zanetti accepts their money worries are "serious", though he did not comment on stories suggesting players have been urged to surrender their wages.

Nevertheless, Martinez will not be discussing a new deal while Inter's situation remains uncertain, and there was a sign of unrest on Wednesday as Antonio Conte told the striker to "show respect" when he reacted petulantly to being taken off against Roma despite having been substituted on earlier in the match.

"I can't promise anything, at present it is useless to make predictions," Camano told Gazzetta dello Sport. "We, like others, first want to understand what the future of the club will be.

"[The renewal] is absolutely on standby. For the moment there's no meeting [scheduled]. I think we'll see each other once the championship is over.

"We are calm, but the current situation of Inter prevents us from making any predictions. The boy is happy in Milan, he has just won a Scudetto as a protagonist, but we cannot help but wait."

Camano was also asked to address the Madrid rumours, and he stressed he is not talking to any other club either.

"I reply by saying that I am not talking to any club," the agent said. "Lautaro is an Inter player and he still has a two-year contract, Inter is still the priority.

"As mentioned, however, it is a question of understanding what will happen from a corporate point of view."

Camano also represents Martinez's Inter team-mate Achraf Hakimi, who in the past week or so has been linked with Bayern Munich.

However, Camano expects him to remain in San Siro.

"Achraf's situation is different as he still has a four-year contract. Today, I say he remains," he said.

What does the future hold for Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez?

The pair helped Inter to their first Scudetto since 2009-10.

But both could depart San Siro as Inter look to cut costs.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU AND LAUTARO TO LEAVE INTER?

Inter could be forced to sell star forwards Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Antonio Conte's Inter have been crowned Serie A champions this season, but the Nerazzurri have financial problems as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lukaku has been linked with former club Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid, while team-mate Martinez has long been tipped to join Barca.

Alessandro Bastoni is also listed in the report amid links to Manchester City and Liverpool, while star full-back Achraf Hakimi is said to be of interest to Arsenal and Bayern Munich.

 

ROUND-UP

- The front page of Thursday's Mundo Deportivo reports Barca look at the idea of signing City's Sergio Aguero favourably. Aguero is out of contract at season's end and he has been linked with Inter, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham. But the Argentina star reportedly wants to play alongside countryman Lionel Messi. A move for Aguero would not prevent Barca from signing fellow free agent and Lyon captain Memphis Depay. Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland is also a target for the LaLiga giants. It comes amid doubts over the future of head coach Ronald Koeman.

Manchester United and Arsenal are battling to sign Sparta Prague sensation Abdallah Sima, claims the Mirror. Sima is reportedly valued at £25million (€29m).

- Sky Sports says United are interested in Juventus defender Cristian Romero, who could cost £34m (€40m). The 23-year-old Argentinian joined Atalanta on a two-year loan deal from Juve and the Serie A side have an option to buy Romero. United have also been linked with Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Lille defender Sven Botman, Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres and Real Madrid duo Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.

- Former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard could replace Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace after emerging as a leading contender, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland together at Camp Nou?

Barcelona are among a host of clubs interested in Borussia Dortmund's Haaland.

Joan Laporta is reportedly fighting to bring Haaland to Spain.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA NOT GIVING UP ON HAALAND

Erling Haaland remains Barcelona's number one transfer target, according to Diario Sport.

Borussia Dortmund star Haaland has been linked with Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester CityChelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite their financial problems and cheaper alternatives, Barca are determined to prise Haaland to Camp Nou, though Inter's Lautaro Martinez and Tottenham star Harry Kane remain possible options.

 

ROUND-UP

- Le10Sport claims Arsenal are desperate to lure Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga to London. Camavinga is in demand amid reported interest from Madrid, United and PSG. Mundo Deportivo, meanwhile, reports Barca are eyeing the France international as a replacement for Sergio Busquets.

- Milan intend on signing Fikayo Tomori on a permanent deal from Chelsea, reports Fabrizio Romano. Tomori has impressed since arriving at San Siro on loan. It comes as Chelsea work to extend Thiago Silva's contract.

- FT says Bayern star Kingsley Coman wants to double his wages in a contract extension. The France international has previously been linked with United.

- Liverpool have shown interest in Leeds United forward Patrick Bamford, according to The Athletic.

- Calciomercato reports Serie A champions Inter and Lazio are targeting Chelsea veteran Olivier Giroud, who is set to leave Stamford Bridge amid the Blues' links with Bayern star Robert Lewandowski and City free agent Sergio Aguero.

Inter notched up a club record 14 consecutive home wins in Serie A as two goals from Alexis Sanchez gave them a 5-1 win over Sampdoria on Saturday.

The recently-crowned Serie A champions took the lead in the fourth minute when Roberto Gagliardini guided the ball beyond Emil Audero.

Sanchez gave a reminder of his quality with a classy finish to increase Inter's lead before ex-Inter man Antonio Candreva pulled a goal back for Sampdoria.

Another fine finish from Sanchez made it 3-1 heading into half-time before Antonio Conte's side put a deserved gloss on the result with a clinical goal from Andrea Pinamonti and a Lautaro Martínez penalty.

Inter were serenaded by their fans outside San Siro and given a guard of honour by Sampdoria's players before kick-off having secured their first Scudetto in 11 years last weekend.

The Nerazzurri were quickly into their stride on the pitch and went ahead when Matias Vecino stole possession to setup a counterattack which culminated in Gagliardini sliding in to direct Ashley Young's cross into the net.

Achraf Hakimi almost scored a dazzling individual goal with a run from his own penalty area only to be denied by a fingertip save by the diving Audero.

Inter's second goal arrived just before the half hour when Sampdoria were again caught on the break as Gagliardini's clever pass found Sanchez who steered the ball home in style.

Sampdoria pulled a goal back moments later when Samir Handanovic was deceived by Candreva's miscued shot and tamely allowed the ball over the line.

Inter responded immediately with a piece of precise finishing from Sanchez, who met Hakimi's cross and found the corner of the net with a clipped finish from the just inside the box.

Conte's men were ruthless after the break as Pinamonti scored his first Inter goal in Serie A when he controlled an awkward ball and crisply dispatched it beyond Audero.

Sampdoria's Adrien Silva was deemed to have handled inside the area following a VAR check and Martinez fired the resulting spot-kick high into the net.

Inter star Lautaro Martinez said he was "truly very close" to joining Lionel Messi's Barcelona before opting to remain at San Siro.

Martinez was heavily linked with a big-money transfer to LaLiga giants Barca prior to the 2020-21 season after starring for Inter in Serie A.

A switch to Camp Nou did not eventuate and Argentina international Martinez celebrated Inter's first Scudetto since 2009-10 last week.

Amid growing speculation over a contract extension in Milan, Martinez revealed the coronavirus pandemic derailed a move to Barca following discussions with countryman Messi.

"I was truly very close to joining Barcelona and I even talked it over with Messi," Martinez told ESPN Argentina.

"However, the Blaugrana had economic problems at that moment, so I decided to stay at Inter. It proved to be the right decision, especially as we then won the Scudetto.

"It's just incredible to win the title at such an important club."

Martinez arrived from Racing Club in 2018 and the 23-year-old has scored 47 goals across all competitions for Inter, including 15 in 34 Serie A appearances this term.

However, Martinez revealed Real Madrid attempted to prise him from boyhood club Racing Club before eventually joining Inter.

"Real Madrid did come for me twice when I was in the Racing youth team, but I wanted to make my name in Argentinean football first and only made the move to Europe when I was ready," he added.

"I do dream one day of returning to Racing. The fans are just as 'crazy' and passionate as the Inter ones."

Real Madrid and Kylian Mbappe – the two parties have long been tipped to come together.

Mbappe is out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain in 2022 and no closer to renewing his deal.

Madrid are reportedly moving closer to prising the France international to the Spanish capital.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE POISED FOR MADRID MOVE?

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe is edging closer to joining LaLiga giants Real Madrid, according to Diario AS.

Mbappe has long been tipped to swap PSG for Madrid, though the Ligue 1 holds continue to try to re-sign the World Cup-winning forward.

PSG's Mbappe is determined to win the Champions League as he eyes the Santiago Bernabeu.


 

ROUND-UP

- Le Parisien, though, claims PSG are holding out hope on teaming Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi with Mbappe and Neymar in Paris. Messi is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and he has been linked with PSG and Manchester City. Neymar has also been linked with a Barca return. However, Le Parisien reports PSG are prioritising a move for Messi while trying to retain Neymar and Mbappe.

Lautaro Martinez is on the verge of signing a new contract with Serie A champions Inter, says Gazzetta dello Sport. The Inter forward has been linked with Barca previously.

- Tuttosport reports star Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is a primary transfer target for Serie A rivals Juventus. Donnarumma is out of contract at the end of the season and the Italy international has not agreed fresh terms with Milan.

Borussia Dortmund will ask for less than €100million (£86m) to sell Jadon Sancho amid interest from United, Chelsea and Liverpool, says Fabrizio Romano.

- The Mirror says Liverpool are eyeing Roma star Lorenzo Pellegrini as incoming Giallorossi boss Jose Mourinho looks to overhaul the squad in the Italian capital. The front page of Thursday's Gazzetto dello Sport, meanwhile, claims Mourinho is looking to bring Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic and Madrid's Isco to Roma.

- Soon-to-be free agent and City star Sergio Aguero is dreaming of a Barcelona move, according to Romano. InterTottenham and Chelsea have also emerged as options for the veteran forward.

Maurizio Sarri is a candidate to take charge of Milan if Stefano Pioli fails to guide the Rossoneri into the Champions League, claims Gazzetta dello Sport. Sarri was reportedly set to join Roma before Mourinho's appointment.

- Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli and Mikel Merino of Real Sociedad are on Barca's shortlist to replace Sergio Busquets, reports Mundo Deportivo.

Romelu Lukaku maintained his impressive scoring run to help Inter to a 2-1 win over Sassuolo at San Siro that moves Antonio Conte's side 11 points clear at the top of Serie A.

The Belgium international scored for a fifth game running for club and country to open the scoring after 10 minutes and Inter did not look back in Wednesday's rescheduled clash.

Lukaku played in strike partner Lautaro Martinez for the home side's second and they held on for another win after Hamed Junior Traore had set up a nervy finale with a well-taken strike five minutes from time.

With this latest victory, Inter become just the second side in Serie A history - after Milan in 1989-90 - to win their first 10 games in the second half of a campaign.

Lukaku scored the only goal for Inter in their 1-0 win over Bologna last weekend and picked up from where he left off with Serie A goal number 21 of the season early on here.

Ashley Young sent in a right-footed cross from the left and former Manchester United team-mate Lukaku guided the ball into the far corner with a header from 10 yards.

Sassuolo were without a number of players through coronavirus concerns but would have been level if not for a fine Milan Skriniar block to thwart Jeremie Boga in the box.

The lively Boga tested Samir Handanovic the other side of the half-time interval as the visitors, who held Roma in their last match, started to pose more of a threat.

But Martinez gave Inter further breathing space by burying a low shot past Andrea Consigli once picked out by Lukaku on the counter.

Sassuolo felt Stefan de Vrij pulled back on the shirt of skipper Giacomo Raspadori in the build-up to Martinez's strike, but VAR did not feel the need to intervene.

Inter's win was not without a scare, though, as Traore curled a fine finish away from Handanovic following an Achraf Hakimi error, though there was to be no late leveller at San Siro.

Antonio Conte has seen evidence of "massive progress" in Lautaro Martinez's game both with and without the ball during his time as Inter coach.

Conte arrived at San Siro in 2019, a year after striker Martinez was signed from Racing Club.

The Argentina international's debut campaign had brought just nine goals and two assists in 35 games in all competitions, but those figures quickly improved under Conte.

Martinez tallied 21 goals and five assists in 49 outings last season and has scored 16 times and created six more for team-mates in 38 appearances in the 2020-21 campaign.

His minutes-per-goal rate has improved across his three seasons in Italy, this season finding the back of the net every 162.2 minutes.

Martinez is also creating more chances, 1.4 per 90 minutes, resulting in the increase in assists, but his work in defending from the front has been similarly impressive.

The 23-year-old has won possession in the final third 32 times this term (1.1 per 90) and posted 31 interceptions (also 1.1 per 90), comfortably more than in his previous two seasons combined.

Among Serie A forwards to score 15 or more goals in all competitions this season, Martinez leads the way in both categories as well as in recoveries per 90 (3.1).

Conte was asked about his number 10 ahead of Inter's game with Sassuolo on Wednesday, and said: "He has improved in all areas, on the ball and off the ball.

"He has improved when it comes to holding up possession and attacking the space.

"Like the other players, he has made massive progress. He needs to stay on this track. Taking his age into account, he has a very bright future ahead. It's in his hands."

Of those with 15 goals or more, Martinez's strike partner Romelu Lukaku ranked last for interceptions (0.1) and recoveries (1.6).

But Lukaku trails only Cristiano Ronaldo (31) in the scoring charts with 26 strikes in all competitions, and Conte is confident all of his players are contributing to the cause as Inter - eight points clear with Wednesday's game in hand - close on a first Scudetto since 2009-10.

"I think for every side putting the team first is the most important factor," the coach said. "Alone, you cannot win matches.

"It's the team that gets the best out of the individual. The players have understood the message. They are all pulling in the same direction."

Harry Kane has been linked with a move away from Tottenham this upcoming transfer window.

But the England forward has another three years on his contract and a deal will not come easy for suitors.

Manchester City are the latest club to be linked with Kane, as they assess their options if they cannot land Erling Haaland this close-season.

 

TOP STORY - TOTTENHAM WARD OFF KANE INTEREST

Tottenham have placed a £175million price tag on Harry Kane amid reports of interest in their star captain.

The Sun has reported Tottenham are unwilling to sell Kane, let alone to a Premier League rival such as City.

Kane is understood be content to stay at Tottenham and the price tag will likely deter any continental interest.

 

ROUND-UP

- Real Madrid are willing to sell one Norwegian Martin Odegaard, who is on loan at Arsenal, to generate the funds required to land his compatriot Haaland, according to The Times. The Gunners are understood to be keen to sign Odegaard permanently.

- Barcelona are lining up Inter's Lautaro Martinez as a possible signing if they fail to win the race for Haaland, reports Spanish publication Sport.

- Tuttosport claims that Juventus are readying a move to bring Moise Kean back to Turin from Everton after starring on loan at Paris Saint-Germain.

- Spanish outlet ABC is reporting that both Manchester United and Chelsea are keen on Real Madrid winger Lucas Vazquez.

Inter assistant coach Cristian Stellini hailed the impact of substitutes Christian Eriksen and Alexis Sanchez in the Serie A leaders' 2-1 win over Torino on Sunday. 

The Nerazzurri's winning streak looked in danger when Antonio Sanabria cancelled out Romelu Lukaku's 62nd-minute penalty – Inter's first shot on target – 20 minutes from full-time. 

Lautaro Martinez sealed all three points for Inter, though, heading home a teasing cross from Sanchez in the 85th minute. 

Stellini – in charge due to Antonio Conte serving a one-match suspension – praised the contribution of the Chile international and Eriksen, who had been linked with a move away from San Siro in the mid-season transfer window. 

"This win was crucial against a team that sits back. They don't concede a lot," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"We needed an episode to break the deadlock. We were lucky to get that penalty kick and then we did well when we scored that second goal.

"Sanchez and Eriksen changed the game. We knew it. Eriksen was ready, albeit with some physical problems. We had prepared it this week. We knew they could be dangerous coming off the bench.

"Christian has changed his performances. He's always tried hard. In the beginning, it could be challenging to adapt to a different kind of football, but now he's settled in well.

"Lautaro and Lukaku have many qualities, they are solid, they complete each other, and they sacrifice for the team.

"Sometimes we have to stop them, telling them they can't train too much. Now we can breathe a little bit, and we can take care of every detail."

Martinez's winner means he is up to 14 goals in 27 Serie A matches this season, equalling his best-ever return in the Italian top flight.

It was the fourth consecutive game against Torino in which he has scored and the Argentina striker said Inter needed "heart and soul" to edge past Davide Nicola's side. 

"We knew Torino needed points, but we needed them too. It was a tough game, but we managed to win, and we are so happy," he said.

"We train every day to do the right things. We prepared the game differently. We needed quality, heart and soul. We proved we aim for something important.

"We want to win, it doesn't matter who scores. It's important to find the net, I am happy to score and I am happy."

Inter strengthened their position at the Serie A summit as Lautaro Martinez's late header secured a slender 2-1 win over Torino on Sunday.

The Nerazzurri never looked like scoring during a dismal first half, but they forged ahead in the 62nd minute when Romelu Lukaku slotted home from the penalty spot.

Antonio Sanabria pulled the hosts level eight minutes later, yet Inter celebrated an eighth consecutive top-flight win courtesy of Martinez's 14th league goal of the season five minutes from full-time.

The result moved Antonio Conte's side nine points clear at the top of Serie A, although Milan had the chance to restore a six-point gap by overcoming Napoli later on Sunday.

Lautaro Martinez has confirmed he previously held talks with Barcelona but reaffirmed his desire to now sign a new contract with Inter.

The Argentina striker was heavily linked with a big-money move to Camp Nou prior to the 2020-21 season after starring in Serie A with the Nerazzurri.

Martinez admits he was in discussions with Los Cules; however, a move failed to materialise and with Barca's financial woes becoming a huge discussion point in European football the chances of them imminently renewing their interest looks slim.

Instead, Martinez is focused on committing his future to Serie A leaders Inter, where he has a deal that runs until 2023 with Antonio Conte's side.

Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport, he said: "It's true, I was in negotiations with Barcelona. I was clear with Conte, I told him: 'I think about Inter only, this is not going to affect me.'

"However, it all belongs to the past, I am going to sign a contract extension with Inter. I don't know when there will be an official announcement. Meanwhile I play. My future is here, I see myself in Milan for a long time.

"I like everything about this city. The food, the fans, the team. I only have positive feelings."

Since making his debut in August 2018, Martinez has scored 33 Serie A goals – which ranks 10th in the league in that time.

He has a modest shot-conversion rate of 12.55 per cent, has registered 95 shots on target and has a big-chance conversion of 36.36 per cent.

Additionally, Martinez has nine assists, and has created 79 chances for team-mates – 15 of which are defined as 'big chances' by Opta.

This season alone, he has netted 13 in 23 top-flight appearances – just one fewer than he managed in the whole of last season – to help fire Inter to the top of the table.

Conte's side are four points clear of rivals Milan having triumphed 3-0 in last week's derby, while defending champions Juventus are eight points back.

Martinez was reluctant to label Inter as "favourites" for the title but says the team's success is due to the atmosphere created by Conte.

"Favourites is a word I don't like. But we are on top of the table and this gives us positive feelings. I've never experienced having such a gap from the second-placed [team]," he added.

"It's not a coincidence. It's the result of the work we do with our coach. As he likes to say: 'We are working to leave Inter as high as possible.'

"We are a diverse team with Conte, more united, everyone fights for the others, we help each other and it's a good sign."

Since losing the first derby of the season back in October, Inter have been beaten just once in 19 Serie A matches.

Pressure had been building on Conte after a start that saw Inter win just three of their opening seven league games, while they were also knocked out of the Champions League.

Martinez pinpointed their European failure as the moment that turned Inter's season around.

"Simple, we were eliminated from the Champions League. It hurt so much and we told each other that our target should have been the Serie A title," Martinez said.

"Conte told us to take care of every little detail, on and off the pitch. That's how you win.

"That's what we tell each other in the dressing room, every day. That's how you win. We only play to win."

Romelu Lukaku has revealed how training sessions at Inter are like a war zone, as well as making clear he wishes "nothing but the best" for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Manchester United.

Lukaku offered Twitter followers the chance to send in questions via social media – and the striker duly replied to a wide range of topics during the session, one that he moved forward to make sure he was free to play NBA 2K later on Tuesday.

The Belgian striker has once again been pivotal for the Serie A leaders this season, scoring 17 goals to help the Nerazzurri stride four points clear at the summit in their pursuit of a first league title since 2010.

Inter coach Antonio Conte was known for a combative approach during his playing days and, according to Lukaku, he will not accept seeing any of his squad hold back – even when they're facing each other!

Asked to name the hardest player to go up against in training, the 27-year-old replied: "Training is actually a war zone. Our manager don't play lol. He doesn't like it when we hold in haha. I love it."

Former Chelsea and Manchester United striker Lukaku has formed a successful forward partnership with Lautaro Martinez, who struck twice in the emphatic 3-0 win over city rivals Milan to take his tally in the league this season to 13.

Lukaku was also on target at San Siro on Sunday, in the process becoming the first Inter player to score in four successive derby meetings since 1950.

"Communication is key! We have a great feel for each other but most importantly we work for the team!" Lukaku tweeted about his on-field connection with Martinez.

Before moving to Italy, Lukaku spent time with four different Premier League clubs.

He started out in England as a teenager with Chelsea and first seriously caught the eye when on loan at West Brom and then Everton, who then signed him for £28million.

Despite being unable to make a significant breakthrough at Stamford Bridge, Lukaku insisted he had "nothing but love" for the Blues, saying: "They gave me an opportunity to come to the Premier League as a kid. You can't have everything in life and I'm cool with that. I'm glad that experience got me to where I am today."

There were also kind words for his former United boss in Solskjaer, who was in charge when Lukaku departed Old Trafford in August 2019.

When asked if he had a good relationship with the Norwegian, Lukaku responded: "He is doing great. You guys have to know I love him as a manager and as a person and I wish him nothing but the best."

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