Lautaro Martinez: I was close to joining Messi at Barcelona

By Sports Desk May 06, 2021

Inter star Lautaro Martinez said he was "truly very close" to joining Lionel Messi's Barcelona before opting to remain at San Siro.

Martinez was heavily linked with a big-money transfer to LaLiga giants Barca prior to the 2020-21 season after starring for Inter in Serie A.

A switch to Camp Nou did not eventuate and Argentina international Martinez celebrated Inter's first Scudetto since 2009-10 last week.

Amid growing speculation over a contract extension in Milan, Martinez revealed the coronavirus pandemic derailed a move to Barca following discussions with countryman Messi.

"I was truly very close to joining Barcelona and I even talked it over with Messi," Martinez told ESPN Argentina.

"However, the Blaugrana had economic problems at that moment, so I decided to stay at Inter. It proved to be the right decision, especially as we then won the Scudetto.

"It's just incredible to win the title at such an important club."

Martinez arrived from Racing Club in 2018 and the 23-year-old has scored 47 goals across all competitions for Inter, including 15 in 34 Serie A appearances this term.

However, Martinez revealed Real Madrid attempted to prise him from boyhood club Racing Club before eventually joining Inter.

"Real Madrid did come for me twice when I was in the Racing youth team, but I wanted to make my name in Argentinean football first and only made the move to Europe when I was ready," he added.

"I do dream one day of returning to Racing. The fans are just as 'crazy' and passionate as the Inter ones."

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    The 26-year Denmark international joins Frenkie de Jong, Memphis Depay, Hector Bellerin, Jules Kounde and Ronald Araujo on the sidelines at Camp Nou due to injury.

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    Under pressure Inter head coach Simone Inzaghi is optimistic that Tuesday's 1-0 Champions League win over Barcelona "marks the beginning of something".

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    "We'd been waiting a long time for this, I am happy for the fans and the club, but we’ve achieved nothing yet, it needs to be a wonderful night that marks the beginning of something," Inzaghi told Sky Sport Italia.

    "I wouldn't say it was unexpected. I said yesterday it was a great opportunity against one of the best teams in the world. We played with aggression, determination, as it’s the only way to beat these opponents."

    Inzaghi, who took over after Antonio Conte's split with the club following their 2020-21 Serie A title, lifted two trophies last season, the Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana, but ultimately fell short in the race for the Scudetto to Milan.

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    "I saw a squad that is solid and fights together, otherwise you don’t get a result like this. I am happy, but these lads are the same ones who gave me two trophies just a few months ago and they know more than anyone we now have ground to make up."

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    "We tried, we want to attack and we paid for the first half, we lacked a bit of rhythm. We need to be self-critical, beyond referee decisions.

    "The first half was not up to the Champions League. We talked about it at half-time, we needed more rhythm in the exchange of the ball and I think the second half was positive."

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