Inter Milan head coach Antonio Conte has confirmed his desire to sign Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku – a player Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has ruled out of Saturday’s clash between the sides in Singapore with a knock.
Two years on from joining from Everton for an initial £75million, the 26-year-old is keen to move onto pastures new and link up with the manager he spurned to join the Old Trafford giants.
United sneaked ahead of Conte’s Chelsea to complete that move in 2017, and now the Italian is looking to link up with him at Inter, who face Solskjaer’s side at Singapore’s National Stadium on Saturday.
“I think frustrated is a big word,” he said in English when asked about the inability to complete a deal.
“Lukaku is a United player and this is the reality. You know very well that I like this player, but also in the past when I was Chelsea’s coach and I tried to bring him to Chelsea.
“But I repeat, today Lukaku is a player of United and this is the reality and this is the truth.”
Pushed on Inter’s interest in him, Conte said: “I think that at this moment, I repeat, we’re talking about a player of another club.
“For this reason, I think that it’s right (we) don’t talk about Lukaku because I have great respect for United.
“As I said before, for sure, I like this player and I consider him an important player for us to have a good improvement. But, at the same time, there is a market, a transfer market.
“We know very well which is our situation at this moment. We’ll see, we’ll see what happens but now, for sure, Lukaku is a United player.”
Conte confirmed striker Mauro Icardi, just like midfielder Radja Nainggolan, would not be part of the ‘Inter project’ moving forwards, a decision that leaves them light in attack.
“For sure it’s not easy to play without a striker at the beginning of the season like this,” Conte said. “It’s not easy to play against teams like Juventus and Manchester United without strikers.
“But the market is open so there is still a process for players to come in and out.”
Conte’s frustration in failing to sign Lukaku is understood to be echoed by the player himself.
The Belgium striker watched United’s training session from the bench on the eve of the International Champions Cup match against his potential employers in sweltering Singapore.
Lukaku was at one point seen in animated conversation with a member of the United backroom team during the session, one of many he has missed during the pre-season tour.
After missing missed the wins against Perth Glory and Leeds, the 26-year-old will again fulfil a watching brief in Singapore.
“No, he’s not fit so he won’t be available,” Solskjaer said in Singapore, two hours before Conte sat in the same chair.
When asked if he believed Lukaku would be at the club next month, the United manager said: “I don’t have any updates from the last time I spoke to you. So, yeah, I do.”
Struggling to pick out the facts from the figures? Reality from the rubbish? Sense from the silly season? We’ve got you sorted in our daily dose of the Transfer Predictor, where we round up the latest rumours with an analytical spin.
We sort through the most eye-catching transfer reports of the past 24 hours and give a balanced judgment on whether the move really will happen – and why.
Today’s edition features potential signings for Leicester City, Tottenham and Paris Saint-Germain:
Barcelona -> €50m -> Manchester United
The Red Devils have registered interest in the experienced Croatia midfielder and Barca may sell to raise critical transfer funds, according to SPORT.
Why it will happen: Barca’s desire for a lavish reunion with Neymar is putting Barca’s bank account under stress. Sales are required to make the operation possible and Rakitic could be adjudged expendable, especially now Netherlands international Frenkie de Jong is on-board. For their part, United are hunting a quality replacement for Ander Herrera. Rakitic easily fits this billing.
Why it won’t happen: Rakitic almost joined Paris Saint-Germain last summer and could be a makeweight this summer. The Ligue 1 champions should be more attractive than fallen giants United. The 31-year-old also does not fit the characteristics United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has been pursuing; young and British. Rakitic’s wish is also reported to be for a stay in Catalonia
Transfer Predictor: 2/10
Lille -> €40m -> Inter Milan
Inter have identified Lille striker Leao as a half-priced alternative to Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.
Why it will happen: Antonio Conte coveted Lukaku at Chelsea and his intentions remain the same now he’s at the San Siro. The £75m+ price tag, however, is a major impediment for Financial Fair Play-conscious Inter. This is where Leao comes in. The versatile Portugal Under-20 forward is a long-term target for the Nerazzurri, wants to increase his wages and would like to make the step-up to a larger club.
Why it won’t happen: Leao has exhibited plenty of promise in his nascent career, but his numbers do not come close to Lukaku’s. There is a nagging sense that he is being used as a stalking horse, showing Inter have other options to pursue if United don’t cut their demands. There is also plenty of other interest being shown in the Sporting Lisbon youth product from Valencia, Everton and Napoli.
Transfer Predictor: 3/10
Tottenham Hotspur -> £20m -> Paris Saint-Germain
The Ligue 1 champions are leading the chase for another England left-back that Spurs are willing to cash-in on, according to Sky Sports.
Why it will happen: A summer exit appeared inevitable from the moment the Champions League finalists stated Rose was “not travelling on tour to explore prospective opportunities with other clubs”. At 29-years old, the time has come for them to profit on the £1m paid to Leeds United in July 2007. PSG head coach Thomas Tuchel does not appear to trust Layvin Kurzawa and wants to put pressure on first-choice left-back Juan Bernat. Rose has the quality, in abundance, to do that. Witnessing opposite number Kieran Trippier this week swap Spurs for Atletico Madrid may inspire a continental European adventure of his own.
Why it won’t happen: When the prospect of Rose exiting first appeared two years ago, a desire to return to the north of England was raised. Whether a move to PSG suits is unclear. Schalke 04 are also linked with his signature and the Bundesliga side would offer a greater guarantee of starts.
Transfer Predictor: 7/10
Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has revealed Romelu Lukaku will not play in Saturday’s friendly against Inter Milan in Singapore.
The Belgium striker, who has been linked with a big-money move to Inter this summer, will not be involved in the International Champions Cup clash between the sides.
Asked if Lukaku would play, Solskjaer told a press conference: “No, he’s not fit, so he won’t be available.”
Asked further about the speculation surrounding the frontman, Solskjaer added: “I don’t have any updates from the last time I spoke to you.”
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