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'You know very well I like this player' - Conte confirms admiration for Lukaku amid Inter transfer links

12:17 BST 19/07/2019
Romelu Lukaku Man Utd
The Nerazzurri boss has admitted he is a fan of the Belgian striker, but is unsure if his club will sign the Manchester United forward

Inter boss Antonio Conte has expressed his admiration for Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku, who continues to be linked with a move to San Siro.

The 26-year-old completed a switch to Old Trafford from Everton in 2017, reuniting with former Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho after three years at Goodison Park.

Lukaku scored 26 goals across all competitions in his debut season for United but was less prolific in the 2018-19 campaign, facing criticism amid concerns over his fitness in particular.

The Belgium international even admitted back in April that he "dreams" of playing in Serie A one day, fuelling speculation he could leave United this summer.

Inter have been touted as his most likely next destination, with chief executive Giuseppe Marotta 'optimistic' a deal can be pushed over the line before the August transfer deadline.

Speaking ahead of his side's pre-season clash against the Red Devils in the International Champions Cup on Saturday, Conte confessed he "likes" Lukaku as a player before also conceding the Nerazzurri are in dire need of attacking reinforcements.

“You know very well I like this player [Lukaku]," the Italian coach began. "Today Lukaku is a player of United and this is the reality. This is the truth.

“For sure it’s not easy to play without a striker at the beginning of the season like this. The market is still open."

Conte also hinted he would have preferred to have concluded Inter's business at an earlier date, but he has been in regular contact with the club's senior officials.

“Of course it can be difficult for the team," he added. "I already spoke with the management. It’s not just about getting news players but reducing (the squad). I cannot hide that we’re a bit late."

One man who looks destined to leave San Siro this summer is Mauro Icardi, after a turbulent year which saw him stripped of his captaincy duties by former coach Luciano Spalletti.

Conte succeeded Spalletti in June and, when asked to address the Argentine's position at the club, he confirmed that the 26-year-old is not in his plans ahead of the new season.

“He [Icardi] is out of Inter’s project. This is the reality in this moment," Conte stated.

Inter's clash against United will take place at Singapore's national stadium and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has already revealed that Lukaku will miss the fixture through injury.