BERLIN – Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku has heaped praise on Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte after ending a transfer saga by leaving Manchester United for the Serie A club.
"The coach was a key factor," Lukaku told the Inter homepage on Friday. "He’s the best coach in the world: he manages to improve his players, while his career speaks for itself."
Conte, 50, won three successive Serie A titles with Juventus before moving to Chelsea after a spell in charge of Italy. But despite winning the Premier League and FA Cup, his two-year reign in London was difficult and he took the Inter job following a year out.
Lukaku is Conte’s headline signing, after weeks of speculation, for the close season on a five-year contract to 2024. The 26-year-old was also given the storied number nine jersey, previously worn by ex-Inter captain Mauro Icardi – a possible hint the Argentine is set to leave.
Inter, three times European champions, still seem well short of Juventus’ level but are targeting a return to the Champions League.
"I chose Inter because of the club’s project," Lukaku said. "I think Inter are heading in the right direction and I needed a new challenge."
Lukaku was a teenage prodigy with Anderlecht but despite playing for Chelsea and Everton before United, remains without major titles to his name. Something he hopes to change.
"Here, the foundations are there to do well," he said. "Through my commitment and my desire to perform, I want to help this team achieve big things.
"I won’t get ahead of myself, but I hope we’ll have achieved great results come the end of the season."
And Lukaku’s comments about his new coach are likely not to have gone unnoticed in Manchester as United prepare for the new season under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – whose CV on the bench falls some way short of Conte’s.