Antonio Conte Hopeful of Romelu Lukaku Deal Amid Manchester United Exit Rumours

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistAugust 5, 2019

MACAU, MACAU - JULY 27: Team coach Antonio Conte of FC Internazionale gestures during the International Super Cup 2019 between Paris Saint-Germain and FC Internazionale at the Macau Taipa Olympic Sports Center on July 27, 2019 in Macau. (Photo by Chris Wong/Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images)
Eurasia Sport Images/Getty Images

Inter Milan manager Antonio Conte has said he's still "very hopeful" of signing Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United after his proposed move to Juventus reportedly fell through.

Goal's Joe Wright wrote United have pulled out of a potential swap deal for Lukaku involving Paulo Dybala, who is understood to be demanding too much money and didn't convince the English club he wanted to join.

Conte spoke to reporters after Inter ended their 2019 International Champions Cup campaign by beating Tottenham Hotspur 4-3 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in London:

"We're continuing to work in the best possible way. I understand there are some gaps to fill but, at the moment, I'm very hopeful.

"At the same time, I'm working with a big group of players who I'm very satisfied with.

"I honestly don't know how it will end. I'm reading about the swap in the newspapers.

"Lukaku is a good player, a striker I tried to buy when I was the coach at Chelsea. We're talking about two big clubs in Juventus and Inter, but I honestly don't know how it will end."

Journalist Kristof Terreur cited Conte's longstanding interest in Lukaku, who appears to be surplus to requirements at Old Trafford:

Kristof Terreur 📰🎥 @HLNinEngeland

If Romelu Lukaku ends up at Inter, he will work under a manager that wants him badly and tried to sign him twice before (Juve 2014, Chelsea 2017). Inter know what to do - up the fee. United are still keen on offloading him. #mufc https://t.co/D8CHV8GYLz

The Red Devils don't appear willing to sell their £75 million signing for less than their valuation. Corriere della Sera (h/t MailOnline's Jack Kinnersley) reported Inter are willing to lodge a new bid for Lukaku worth £65 million plus add-ons.

Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis also recently said he has been in contact with Lukaku's agent, Federico Pastorello, with whom he is "good friends."

He told Sky Sport Italia (h/t Perform, via AS):

"You know why there are rumours about him? Because I am good friends with his agent, Federico Pastorello, who I often wake up at dawn for a chat. I asked him: 'Do you think Lukaku would suit Napoli? Is he going to Juventus or not?' We spoke in those terms, but then we know it's in the interest of agents to make it seem as if we made an offer, as that raises the price tag for someone else. This is why I'd prefer it if the transfer market opened the day after the season ended and closed at the end of July."

It's suggested Napoli could be willing to offer striker Arkadiusz Milik in part-exchange to land Lukaku. However, United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer already has striker options in Marcus Rashford, Anthony Martial and emerging talent Mason Greenwood, 17.

Lukaku recently posted a selfie on Twitter alongside agent Pastorello, which appeared to suggest a fresh start could be on the horizon:

R.Lukaku Bolingoli9 @RomeluLukaku9

Soon to be continued 🤫 https://t.co/SGzPkUUbxL

United's frontman has scored 42 times in 96 matches for United—an average of 0.44 goals per game—but he played the full 90 minutes in only 24 of his 45 appearances last season, when he netted 15 times in all competitions.

Inter are also under some pressure to resolve the future of former captain Mauro Icardi. The Argentinian has a contract at the club until 2021, but La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t MailOnline's Dan Ripley) reported Inter are willing to sideline the forward for the remainder of his deal.

WhoScored.com highlighted Icardi's importance to the Inter attack since he arrived from Sampdoria in 2013:

WhoScored.com @WhoScored

Inter's top goalscorer in the last 5 Serie A seasons: 2014/15 -- Mauro Icardi (2⃣2⃣) 2015/16 -- Mauro Icardi (1⃣6⃣) 2016/17 -- Mauro Icardi (2⃣4⃣) 2017/18 -- Mauro Icardi (2⃣9⃣) 2018/19 -- Mauro Icardi (1⃣1⃣) For more player stats -- https://t.co/aVgDkIy4gi https://t.co/KxpWJgT5Zd

Lukaku encouraged speculation of a move to the San Siro after he said in June that he felt Conte was "the best coach in the world," per SportMediaset (h/t Goal).

Conte appears to reciprocate his admiration and remains upbeat about a potential deal for the United misfit, with Serie A champions Juventus perhaps no longer competition in the transfer chase.