Juventus suffered another setback in their bid to rein in Serie A leaders Inter as they could only draw 1-1 at Hellas Verona on Saturday.

The defending champions are third but had the opportunity to close within five points of the frontrunners ahead of their game the following day.

Although the Bianconeri were made to work hard by Verona, they looked to be on course when Cristiano Ronaldo netted his 26th goal of the season early in the second half.

But Antonin Barak's header gave Verona a point they deserved, extending their unbeaten league run against Juve to three matches for the first time since the 1980s.

Juve made a rapid start and Aaron Ramsey had a low shot touched wide, but the best attempt of the first half soon followed at the other end as Wojciech Szczesny turned Marco Faraoni's header onto the crossbar.

The pace of the game slowed thereafter, although Marco Silvestri was asked to push away a Federico Chiesa effort.

The breakthrough goal arrived four minutes into the second period when Chiesa turned provider and squared to Ronaldo, whose finish slipped beyond Silvestri.

Juve failed to build on that strike, though, and Verona recovered a foothold and eventually parity as Barak towered over Alex Sandro from substitute Darko Lazovic's cross.

Verona looked the more likely to forge a winner, with Szczesny expertly denying Lazovic, but they settled instead for a point that means Juve are winless in three on the road in all competitions.

Antonio Conte has claimed Romelu Lukaku would not be out of place playing American Football, as he hailed the Inter star's "atypical" style of play.

Lukaku has been in sensational form throughout his Inter career. Last season – his first campaign with the Serie A giants – he finished with 23 league goals; only Ronaldo (25) and Istvan Nyers (26) have scored more in their debut seasons with the Nerazzurri. 

The 27-year-old Belgium forward also netted 30 times across all competitions for the first time in his career, and equalled Ronaldo's record from 1997-98 of 34 goals for Inter.

Lukaku has also struck up a brilliant relationship with fellow forward Lautaro Martinez.

Indeed, across the opening 23 Serie A games this term, the duo have combined for 30 goals – Lukaku scoring 17 times and Martinez adding another 13. It is the first time Inter have a pair of players having combined for as many goals after as many matches since 1958-59.

Lukaku made his mark in last week's Milan derby, setting up Martinez's opener before sealing a dominant 3-0 victory with a sublime solo goal.

"It's too easy to say that," Conte told Il Corriere della Sera when it was put to him that some fans had described Lukaku as "unstoppable".

"I wish Lukaku and Lautaro were given more space inside the box. I don't think it's a good thing for defenders."

Lukaku, through his time with both Everton and Manchester United prior to his move to Inter, was often at his best driving at goal from deep.

In particular at Everton, his now-international boss Roberto Martinez occasionally used him on the right flank to good effect, giving Lukaku the freedom to burst inside at pace onto his stronger left foot.

And Conte believes Lukaku would have been able to make a career in American Football, such is his physique and power.

"Lukaku is an atypical player, he is a speedy centre forward, he could play American Football," Conte added.

Earlier in the week, Belgium boss Martinez spoke highly of Lukaku, who he managed for three seasons at Everton before his departure in 2016, though the Spaniard swiftly landed a job in charge of the striker's national team.

"He scores like few others," Martinez told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "Create and score, create and score, create and score…

"He arrived in Milan at the perfect moment. He became a complete player, obviously thanks to Conte. Today, at his age, there are no strikers as strong as him.

"In the past, Romelu always had the potential to be able to do what he is demonstrating in Milan. For me it's not a surprise."

Antonio Conte acknowledges he has become a "pain in the a**" as he attempts to guide Inter to their first trophy in a decade.

Ahead of hosting Genoa on Sunday, Inter top Serie A after 23 games – their derby victory over Milan last week moving them four points clear of their city and title rivals.

Inter – who finished second in Serie A behind Juventus in Conte's debut season – last won a trophy in 2010-11, clinching their seventh Coppa Italia trophy.

The Nerazzurri have already seen two opportunities for silverware slip from their grasp this campaign, finishing bottom of their Champions League group and exiting the Coppa Italia in the semi-finals.

With Milan facing a tough trip to Roma and Juve further off the pace, Inter have the chance to consolidate their lead at the top when they hunt a ninth straight home win in Serie A.

It is a feat that only Juve and Roma have managed in the last 10 seasons.

Conte has not shied away from questioning not only his own players but also Inter's hierarchy, yet the former Italy coach believes his rather decisive style is what has helped transform Inter back into title contenders.

"When people talk about me, there is always a 'but'. They say: 'He is a good coach, but…', that 'but' stimulates me," Conte told Il Corriere Della Sera.

"Football is my passion. When I ended my career as a footballer, I started from the beginning with Arezzo. I had won everything as a footballer. Coach Conte had started from zero. Those who played in big clubs think they can be coaches, but it's different.

"An opponent would have pushed for Conte to be kicked out of Inter. As an opponent, I would want to kill my enemy, in a sporting [sense]. 

"I'm more prepared thanks to my experiences. I was advised not to join Inter, but I like challenges, and this one is the most difficult in my career.

"It's hard to change that mental chip. If you don't win for 10 years, you subconsciously get used to the situation, look for excuses or blame someone else, you don't see your limitations or flaws.

"The environment is imbued with this, it is important to work not only on the players but on every sector. So you raise the pressure and become a pain in the a**.

"This is the difference between winning and living peacefully. When I go to a club, I enter into it body and soul. I am passionate and passion makes the difference, it is contagious. If you feel the sense of belonging you give more. I don't know if we will win, but we will do everything to succeed.

“A coach is happy when a project lasts long. If you must leave after a short while, it leaves bitterness. Making your mark and staying for many years is the most beautiful thing. I wish there were continuity in everything."

While his determination to end Inter's barren run is clear, Conte conceded there is one job away from club football which still entices him.

Conte managed Italy from 2014 to 2016 before leaving the role to join Chelsea, who he led to the Premier League title in 2017, and the 51-year-old is open to an Azzurri return should the possibility arise.

"Absolutely no, it gives me goosebumps to think about the national team," Conte replied when asked if his time with Italy was over for good.

"My door will always be open to Italy."

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."

LeBron James has vowed never to "just stick to sports" after footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic said he did not support the NBA star getting involved with politics. 

Los Angeles Lakers superstar James has been a powerful voice against racism and police brutality, among a host of social issues, in the United States. 

James is a friend of former United States president Barack Obama and his own foundation supports a school that is aimed at helping disadvantaged children. 

Milan striker Ibrahimovic told Discovery+ Sport in Sweden: "He's phenomenal what he's doing, but I don't like when people, when they have some kind of status and they do politics at the same time as what they're doing. 

"Do what you’re good at, do the category you do. I play football because I'm the best in playing football, I don't do politics. 

"If I would be a political politician, I would do politics. That is the first mistake people do when they become famous and they come in a certain status. 

"Stay out of it, just do what you're best at, because it doesn't look good." 

That outburst was shot down by NBA star James, who said it was important to use his platform to shine a light on inequalities and injustice. 

"At the end of the day, I would never shut up about things," James said. 

"That's wrong. I appreciate about my people and I appreciate about equality, social injustice, racism, systematic voting, voter suppression, things that go in our community, because I was a part of my community at one point and seeing things what's going on. 

"I see what's going on still because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that's going through the same thing and they need a voice and I'm their voice. 

"I use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that may be going on, not only in my community but around this country and around the world. There's no way I will ever just stick to sports because I understand this platform and how powerful my voice is." 

James pointed to the time when Ibrahimovic complained of being racially discriminated against in his native Sweden three years ago, because he did not have a traditionally Swedish name.

At the time, Ibrahimovic spoke of "undercover racism" in the Swedish media.

James, therefore, expressed surprise at why Ibrahimovic would make his latest claims.

"I speak from a very educated mind," James said, "so I'm kind of the wrong guy to actually go at, because I do my homework."

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is relishing the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to Old Trafford after being blown away by the late-career rejuvenation of the Swedish great.

Manchester United and Milan were drawn together in the Europa League last 16 on Friday, giving the second-tier competition a glamour tie.

A serious knee ligament injury sustained in April 2017, near the end of his first season with Manchester United, raised doubts about whether Ibrahimovic would play at the highest level again. He got fit enough to make a first-team return before heading off to LA Galaxy, seemingly to wind down his career in the United States.

Yet Ibrahimovic was not finished with European football and in December 2019 embarked on a second spell with Milan, which has surpassed the most generous of expectations.

Ibrahimovic has scored 27 goals in 40 games so far for the Rossoneri, including 16 in 20 appearances this season to help Milan mount a title challenge. In doing so, the 39-year-old has passed the 500-goal mark in his club career.

Milan's lead in the Scudetto race was reined in by Inter, who now lead the way in Serie A, but Ibrahimovic's impact has been seismic in Italy.

United loanee Diogo Dalot, who has played 19 games for Milan this season, may also be heading back to Manchester for the March 11 first leg as he is eligible for the tie.

"Zlatan, of course, I've been so impressed, I've got to say, by how his career has gone," United manager Solskjaer told the club's official website.

"He had a career-threatening injury when he was here but came back from that and went to MLS, then came back to Milan and has really lifted them. They're on the up and have done really well this season.

"I've been so impressed by him, and Diogo we know. He went there to get some experience at a big club and he's learned a lot. He's played a lot more games this season, kept fit and, hopefully, we can give him some bother!"

Ibrahimovic hit 28 goals in 46 games in his first season at United, adding one more strike in seven games in the following season as he fought his way back to full fitness.

His United goals came at a rate of one every 139.1 minutes, compared to his stunning Milan average strike rate of 109.9 minutes per goal.

He has also boosted his big chance conversion rate from 35.7 per cent at United to 45 per cent with Milan.

Solskjaer, whose side face Chelsea in the Premier League this Sunday, may have wished for a kinder European draw, particularly as it came on the Norwegian's 48th birthday.

"It's a nice birthday gift, isn't it? To watch that draw!" he said. "We do have the tradition of making it hard for ourselves in draws.

"It's one of the those draws again that you feel could be a Champions League game. It's good for us to have these games to look forward to. This team needs challenges and we enjoy challenges and we embrace them.

"The tradition and history of AC Milan, it's a great club that we welcome and it's a great stadium that we go to there, and we're looking forward to it."

Paulo Dybala is not at risk of surgery and Juventus are exploring options to get him back on the pitch as soon as possible, says head coach Andrea Pirlo.

Argentina forward Dybala sustained a knee injury in Juve's 3-1 win over Sassuolo on January 10 and was only expected to miss around two to three weeks.

Having now missed a more substantial period of time, Dybala was reportedly in Barcelona this week to get a second opinion on the issue.

An injury-hit campaign has restricted Dybala to just 16 appearances in all competitions for Juve this term, but Pirlo – who also said striker Alvaro Morata, contending with a virus, needs to rest until Sunday – said surgery is not being considered at this time.

"Alvaro Morata needs to rest until Sunday. As for Paulo Dybala, we will look for the best solution to get him back as soon as possible," Pirlo told a news conference previewing Saturday's Serie A contest with Hellas Verona.

"[Dybala] is not at risk of surgery. We will evaluate the fastest treatment to get him back into the group as soon as possible.

"He had a consultation and now we see what the best treatment can be. Unfortunately, the times have lengthened, and we have not been able to have him available."

Juve's clash with Verona is the first of five in the space of 16 days, including the return leg of their Champions League last-16 tie against Porto, in which they will attempt to overturn a 2-1 deficit.

It is a crucial period for Pirlo's men given they trail leaders Inter by eight points in Serie A, albeit the Nerazzurri have played a game more.

"The Scudetto is one of our objectives and we have a duty to continue trying to achieve it," Pirlo added.

"We know that we have strong teams ahead of us, but we are Juventus and we have to keep fighting.

"There's a lot of matches close together but we will make it a virtue of necessity. We knew from the start that it would be like this. Plus, [there is] the re-arranged game with Napoli. We are in the middle of this cycle of matches; we will have to do our best.

"Only yesterday have we had a full day of training; the other sessions were mostly recovery, which was needed. We worked well, we will apply the finishing touches and [on Saturday] we will try to be great."

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has been given the all-clear to chase Erling Haaland, while Liverpool are also eyeing a forward.

Borussia Dortmund star Haaland is wanted by numerous European giants, with Manchester City among those reportedly interested.

But Chelsea are also targeting the 20-year-old forward.

 

TOP STORY – CHELSEA GIVEN ALL-CLEAR TO CHASE HAALAND

Chelsea boss Tuchel has been given the green light to go after Dortmund star Haaland ahead of next season, according to Bild.

Haaland has scored 27 goals in 25 games for Dortmund this season.

Chelsea spent big ahead of 2020-21, but are seemingly eager to land Haaland to strengthen further.

 

ROUND-UP

- Liverpool are apparently eyeing a forward of their own. Diario Gol reports Jurgen Klopp wants Real Madrid forward Rodrygo.

- After starring for Burnley, Nick Pope is linked with a move. LancsLive reports the Premier League club want around £50million for the goalkeeper, who is said to be a target for Tottenham.

- Manchester United continue to be linked with West Ham midfielder Declan Rice. 90min reports United are willing to offer any of Jesse Lingard, Nemanja Matic and Phil Jones to West Ham in their bid to land Rice.

- Staying at Manchester United and the Daily Express reports they may give up on Norwich City right-back Max Aarons due to a £35m asking price.

- With Napoli seventh in Serie A and out of the Europa League after being eliminated by Granada, the pressure is on head coach Gennaro Gattuso. But CalcioMercato reports Gattuso is safe for now despite his side's struggles.

There is an age-old argument about which footballer is the greatest of all time: Pele or Diego Maradona, Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, or the alternative option named by Zlatan Ibrahimovic?

Although some may expect the charismatic Swedish star to bestow such an honour upon himself, the 39-year-old believes the all-time best is prolific Brazilian forward Ronaldo.

Ronaldo starred for PSV, Barcelona, Inter and Real Madrid during a distinguished 14-year European club career, claiming the Ballon d'Or in 1997 and 2002, and earning countless other prizes and awards.

'Il Fenomeno' helped his nation lift the World Cup twice, in 1994 and 2002, and was once a runner-up in 1998, while scoring 62 goals in 98 international caps for the Selecao.

"I always tell everyone who plays with me: Ronaldo is football. That Ronaldo is football," said Ibrahimovic.

"The way he moved, the way he did those stepovers, those mazy runs. In my view, he is the best player in history, no doubt about it."

While the Milan striker was in his homeland speaking to UEFA and Discovery+ about his career, he also voiced strong opinions about NBA superstar LeBron James.

While Ibrahimovic recognises the 17-time All-Star's talent, he does not agree that athletes should use their platform for political reasons, like campaigning for justice and social change.

"What he does is phenomenal, but I don't like it when people with a certain status talk about politics," he said.

"Do what you are good at. I play football because I am the best at it. If I was a politician, I’d have gone into politics.

"This is the first mistake that famous people make when they feel like they've arrived.

"I think it's better to steer clear of these issues and do what you're good at."

Inter have confirmed that five members of staff have tested positive for coronavirus.

Managing directors Alessandro Antonello and Giuseppe Marotta, sporting director Piero Ausilio and lawyer Angelo Capellini have all returned positive tests.

An unspecified member of the Serie A leaders' technical staff has also tested positive for COVID-19.

A statement on Inter's official website read: "All coaches and the entire team will follow the procedures set out in the health protocol."

Inter will be desperate to ensure that this outbreak does not spread to their first-team squad or coaches.

The Italians extended their lead at the summit of table to four points with a 3-0 win over city rivals Milan last time out.

With no European commitments over the remainder of the season, Antonio Conte's men are strong favourites to end an 11-year wait for the title.

They last lifted the Scudetto during Jose Mourinho's spell at the club in 2010, which also brought European Cup success.

Juventus, who have won the last nine Serie A titles, sit eight points back in third place with a game in hand.

Inter are next in action on Sunday, when they face Genoa at the San Siro.

Manchester City are reportedly considering a double swoop for Erling Haaland and Giovanni Reyna.

The Borussia Dortmund stars have been linked with moves, with Haaland in particular in high demand across Europe.

And high-flying City have their eyes on the duo.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY CONSIDER HAALAND, REYNA

Manchester City are considering moves for Dortmund stars Haaland and Reyna, according to 90min.

Haaland, 20, has scored 17 goals and provided three assists in 17 Bundesliga games this season.

Reyna, the 18-year-old American, has three goals and four assists in 21 league games.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United continue to be linked with centre-backs. But the Daily Mail reports the Premier League club are unwilling to meet Sevilla defender Jules Kounde's £68million (€79m) release clause, although they remain interested in the 22-year-old.

- With Liverpool enduring a difficult season, Jurgen Klopp's future has become a talking point. Bild reports Klopp could take over as Germany coach after the 2022 World Cup despite having a contract with Liverpool until 2024.

- Another club linked with a move for Haaland are Chelsea. Metro reports Tammy Abraham, who has scored 12 goals this season and is out of contract in 2023, is unwilling to discuss a new deal with the club amid the Haaland rumours.

- Jesse Lingard is attracting interest after an impressive start to his West Ham career. The Daily Express reports Leicester City are prepared to challenge West Ham if they try to sign Lingard, who is on loan from Manchester United, permanently ahead of next season.

- Still without a club, it remains to be seen where Maurizio Sarri ends up next. CalcioMercato reports Fiorentina again met with the former Juventus and Chelsea boss, but a potential agreement remains complex.

Stefano Pioli says Milan have a "desire to restart" as they attempt to recover from their derby loss to Inter.

Milan's 3-0 defeat to the Nerazzurri left them four points adrift of their rivals at the top of the Serie A table having led the way for most of the campaign.

Pioli's men are without a win in three games in all competitions having drawn the first leg of their Europa League round-of-32 tie with Red Star Belgrade 2-2 in between losses to Spezia and Inter.

Speaking ahead of the return leg with Red Star at San Siro, Pioli said: "It is right that there were no smiles on Sunday, but we have a great desire to restart, to express ourselves at our best and to obtain excellent results.

"I see a determined and willing group, eager to return to the levels we have shown. I told the team that there are 90 days left in the championship, it could be 93 with the Europa League final if we were to be particularly good. 

"These days will fly by and will be decisive days to ensure that the season can be positive, very positive or great. 

"Now we have to demonstrate our qualities and our motivations on the field. The group works very well and believes in what it does.

"Matches are all different. The derby was a completely different match. Matches can change during the match, but we need to have clear playing principles that need to start the match one way and keep going all the way. We will be prepared to do it."

On the situation in the tie with Red Star, in which Milan have the edge on away goals, Pioli said: "There is a tough obstacle to overcome, we have a very slight advantage that we will have to be good at exploiting to pass this round."

What does the future hold for Andre Silva?

Silva has scored 18 Bundesliga goals this season, second only to Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski.

He could find himself at Manchester United if Eintracht Frankfurt reportedly pursue a permanent deal for Luka Jovic.

 

TOP STORY – SILVA BOUND FOR MANCHESTER?

Manchester United could be offered the chance to sign Eintracht Frankfurt star Andre Silva if Edinson Cavani leaves Old Trafford, according to The Sun.

Silva is taking the Bundesliga by storm this season, but Eintracht are reportedly looking to raise funds to re-sign Luka Jovic – who is currently on loan in Frankfurt – permanently from Real Madrid.

Portugal international Silva could become available if veteran forward Cavani departs after the former Paris Saint-Germain star arrived on a one-year deal at the start of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Eurosport claims Chelsea are growing increasingly confident of winning the race to sign Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland. The Norway international forward has been linked with Madrid, BarcelonaManchester City, Liverpool and United, as well as Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus.

Everton have joined United and Bayern Munich in trying to sign Norwich City full-back Max Aarons, reports Fabrizio Romano.

Tottenham will target Burnley goalkeeper Nick Pope if PSG make a move for Hugo Lloris, says the Daily Mail.

- The Sun claims United veteran Juan Mata is being tracked by Serie A trio, Juventus, Inter and Roma.

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."

On-field success alone may not be enough to keep coach Antonio Conte at Inter, Ivan Cordoba believes.

Conte has guided Inter to the top of Serie A and they moved four points clear on Sunday with a 3-0 win at rivals Milan, the pace-setters for much of the season.

Not since Jose Mourinho's treble-winning season of 2009-10 had the Nerazzurri won the Derby della Madonnina by a three-goal margin or greater, with this latest result boosting hopes of ending the wait since that campaign for the Scudetto.

Yet even if Inter can secure the title this term, former club stalwart Cordoba - a five-time champion, including under Mourinho - still harbours concerns over Conte's relationship with the board.

The ex-Juventus, Italy and Chelsea coach has had difficulties with some of his former bosses and at one point appeared set to leave San Siro last year, just one season into his Inter reign.

While Cordoba is encouraged by Conte's work since then, he is not yet sure of a long-term plan.

"I don't know what Conte is thinking," Cordoba told Stats Perform News. "I can only hope he can achieve something important for Inter. He is on the right path.

"But since I have been part of that group for a long time, I can say Conte wants to build something not only on the pitch but off it too. These aspects are pivotal.

"You can't win or keep winning if you don't look after parallel details and fix them with the board along the way.

"We know this because Conte spoke about it before the beginning of this season.

"Now the most important thing is the pitch, because without being successful there you won't get anywhere, but the other side of the job is pivotal too.

"If himself and the board share common ideas and intents, he could be at the club for a long time. If he doesn't, it is unlikely."

Inter host Genoa in their next match on Sunday, ahead of Milan's potentially tricky trip to fourth-placed Roma later the same day.

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