Romelu Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge?

Lukaku's first taste of English football was with Chelsea between 2011-14.

He could be set for a Chelsea return amid doubts over his Inter future.

 

TOP STORY – TUCHEL WANTS LUKAKU

Chelsea are planning a move for Inter star Romelu Lukaku, according to The Guardian.

Lukaku, who joined the Blues in 2011 before leaving in 2014, is reportedly considering his future after Antonio Conte quit Inter amid the Serie A champions' troubled financial situation.

Inter quartet Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Achraf Hakimi – linked with Paris Saint-Germain – and Alessandro Bastoni could be sold by the Nerazzurri.

Chelsea are now eyeing a reunion with Real Madrid and Barcelona target Lukaku after winning the Champions League, while Tottenham's Harry Kane and Borussia Dortmund star Erling Haaland are also on their radar.

 

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Gianluigi Donnarumma is prepared to join Juventus on a worse contract than he rejected at Milan, reports Corriere dello Sport. Donnarumma is available on a free transfer and the Italy international has been linked with Barca, Manchester United and PSG. Mundo Deportivo says Barca consider Donnarumma a good market opportunity.

- Bild reports Florian Neuhaus will remain at Borussia Monchengladbach, despite interest from Bayern Munich.

Olivier Giroud will join Milan as a free agent from Chelsea, claims Calciomercato. Giroud is available after his contract was not renewed at Stamford Bridge.

- Lille's Christophe Galtier is the latest candidate to replace head coach Simone Inzaghi at Lazio, joining Maurizio Sarri, Andre Villas-Boas and Sinisa Mihajlovic, according to Tuttomercato. Inzaghi is poised to succeed Conte at Inter.

What does the future hold for Achraf Hakimi?

In his first season with Inter, the Morocco international claimed the Scudetto.

However, his time in Milan could already be coming to an end.

 

TOP STORY – HAKIMI TO PSG?

Paris Saint-Germain want to sign star Inter full-back Achraf Hakimi, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Inter won the Serie A in 2020-21 but find themselves in a tough financial situation due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with head coach Antonio Conte already opting to depart.

Hakimi, Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez and Alessandro Bastoni could reportedly be sold to ease some of the economic pressure at San Siro.

PSG are believed to be interested, though Inter are demanding more than €60million for the 22-year-old, who only joined from Real Madrid at the start of the season.

Madrid have the right of first refusal and can match any offer for their former defender, while Bayern Munich and Chelsea have also been linked.

 

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- The Daily Mail claims Arsenal are plotting a shock bid for Manchester City star Raheem Sterling. The England international found himself out of Pep Guardiola's starting XI at times in 2020-21. Madrid and Barca have been previously linked.

Paul Pogba remains a dream signing for Juventus, reports Calciomercato. Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli and Atletico Madrid midfielder Saul Niguez have emerged as targets for Juve, though the Bianconeri are still keen on Manchester United star Pogba, though Udinese's Rodrigo De Paul is an alternative.

- Romano says Barca are open to selling Philippe Coutinho, though Arsenal are not interested in the former Liverpool attacker.

Lionel Messi's contract extension is a priority for Barca before any new signings are made, according to the front page of Saturday's Mundo Deportivo. Barca have been tipped to bring in Lyon captain Memphis Depay, Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum and Manchester City pair Sergio Aguero and Eric Garcia on free transfers. Gianluigi Donnarumma – another free agent option as his Milan contract expires – is also a possible recruit.

- According to Romano and widespread reports in Italy, Luciano Spalletti has agreed to replace Gennaro Gattuso as Napoli head coach.

Is the Gianluigi Donnarumma-Milan relationship coming to an end?

Donnarumma made his debut as a 16-year-old for Milan in 2015, however, the Italy international is reportedly close to making the move to Serie A rivals Juventus.

Step forward Mike Maignan…

 

TOP STORY – DONNARUMMA OUT, MAIGNAN IN?

Lille goalkeeper Mike Maignan is poised to undergo a medical with Milan as Gianluigi Donnarumma edges closer to a blockbuster Juventus switch, according to widespread reports.

Donnarumma is set to become a free agent and the Milan star is yet to re-sign with the Rossoneri, who qualified for the Champions League.

Gianluca Di Marzio reports Milan are no longer waiting on Donnarumma as they step up their pursuit of Maignan, who will arrive in Italy on Tuesday after helping Lille to Ligue 1 glory.

 

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- Fabrizio Romano says Massimiliano Allegri's priority is to take charge of Real Madrid, despite interest from former club Juve and Napoli in Serie A. Allegri is the favourite to replace Zinedine Zidane should he leave the Spanish capital. Despite securing a top-four finish, Andrea Pirlo is being tipped to leave Juve.

- There is set to be a coaching merry-go-round in Serie A this off-season. The front page of Tuesday's Corriere dello Sport says Porto boss Sergio Conceicao is favourite to succeed Gennaro Gattuso at Napoli, with the latter tipped to replace Simone Inzaghi at Lazio. Ex-Roma head coach Paulo Fonseca is the new first choice to join Fiorentina.

Inter must sell one star – Lautaro Martinez or Alessandro Bastoni – due to their financial situation, according to Corriere dello Sport. Martinez has been linked with Barcelona and Real Madrid, while Bastoni has attracted interest from Liverpool and Manchester City. There is also speculation regarding the future of coach Antonio Conte and star Romelu Lukaku, who is reportedly wanted by Chelsea, Barca and Madrid.

- The Telegraph claims Manchester United are prioritising the signing of Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, who has long been tipped to join the Red Devils. Dortmund team-mate Erling Haaland is also wanted at Old Trafford, while Juventus superstar Cristiano Ronaldo has been linked with a sensational return.

Tottenham are interested in re-hiring Mauricio Pochettino, reports the Independent. Pochettino is in charge of Paris Saint-Germain after replacing Thomas Tuchel in January but he was unable to oversee a successful title defence this season.

Bayern Munich and Barcelona are targeting Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum on a free transfer, says Sky Sports.

The Premier League's big-money clubs are circling for Declan Rice.

The England international has been a key figure in West Ham's quest for European football in 2021-22.

Will the Hammers hold on to the defensive midfielder? 

 

TOP STORY - WEST HAM'S RICE IN DEMAND

Interest in 22-year-old Declan Rice is heating up, the Telegraph reports.

Chelsea may be the strongest suitors for the West Ham player, potentially using Tammy Abraham in a swap deal to land him.

Manchester United also are said to be monitoring Rice's status as he could be set to move on from Upton Park in a £90million deal.

 

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- If Cristiano Ronaldo departs Juventus, La Stampa says Barcelona's France international Antoine Griezmann is being lined up as a potential replacement.

- Manchester United goalkeeper Sergio Romero is drawing interest from Everton and Juventus after failing to find regular playing time at Old Trafford, the Mail on Sunday reports.

Lautaro Martinez could be on the move from Italy to Spain as the Inter Milan striker's agent met with Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, Marca claimed.

- Loanee Dani Ceballos will leave Arsenal this summer as parent club Real Madrid invite permanent offers for the midfielder, Fabrizio Romano reports.

Newcastle are eyeing a move for USA international Cameron Carter-Vickers, who spent the season with Bournemouth on loan from Tottenham, according to SBI Soccer.

Where will Pau Torres play next season?

The Villarreal defender is reportedly wanted by Premier League giants Manchester United, who are set to face the LaLiga outfit in the Europa League final.

But Napoli are also eyeing the Spain international.

 

TOP STORY – UNITED FACE FIGHT FOR VILLARREAL DEFENDER

Manchester United could face a battle from Napoli to sign Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres, according to Gazzetta dello Sport.

United are looking to bolster their defence amid links to Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos and team-mate Raphael Varane, as well as Sevilla's Jules Kounde.

Torres has emerged as a serious option, though Napoli are also reportedly interested, with star Kalidou Koulibaly's future uncertain.

 

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- Lautaro Martinez and Inter have opened dialogue over a contract renewal, says the front page of Monday's Gazzetta dello Sport. Martinez has previously been tipped to join Barcelona, while Madrid have reportedly emerged as suitors.

- L'Equipe claims Lyon captain Memphis Depay will complete his move to Barca in June. It comes as Barca look to seal other free-transfer details for Manchester City defender Eric Garcia and Liverpool's Georginio Wijnaldum. Barca have also been linked with Borussia Dortmund sensation Erling Haaland and City's soon-to-be free agent Sergio Aguero.

Roma have no interest in signing Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. The Italy great will leave Turin at the end of the season, but it will not be for the Italian capital, reports Calciomercato.

- According to Calciomercato, Mauro Icardi has been tipped to swap Paris Saint-Germain for Juventus. With Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala linked with Juve exits, former Inter captain Icardi could return to Italy.

Atalanta are set to trigger their option to sign Cristian Romero from Juve, claims Fabrizio Romano. The defender has been scouted by United.

Lautaro Martinez sees winning the Scudetto as vindication for his decision to stay at Inter, where he has formed a superb partnership with fellow forward Romelu Lukaku.

Martinez was heavily linked with a move to Barcelona throughout the 2019-20 season, with the player even discussing a possible switch to Camp Nou with fellow Argentine Lionel Messi.

However, the 23-year-old instead opted to stick around at San Siro, remaining a key part of Antonio Conte's squad as the Nerazzurri secured a first Serie A title since 2010.

Inter had finished second in the previous season but have kicked on after that disappointment, running away from their rivals since the turn of the year to be crowned champions and end Juventus' nine-year dominance in the competition.

"I am very happy to be at Inter, even more so after this Scudetto which has been missing for so many years," Martinez said in an interview with Sky Sport Italia.

"We are experiencing an incredible moment and I cannot think of anything other than being here.

"I was close to Barcelona, I had also spoken with Messi. Afterwards, I made a choice - I chose to stay here and I was not wrong."

Martinez's combination with Lukaku has been a key factor for Inter, the pair scoring 75 league goals between them in their two seasons together at the club.

Lukaku has been a revelation since joining from Manchester United. After 23 goals in his debut Serie A campaign, he is at 22 this time around with two games to play, as well as providing 11 assists.

The Belgian striker has been ruthless too, converting 52.8 per cent of what Opta describes as 'big' chances, which is where a player is expected to score.

Martinez – who has 16 goals and five assists in the league in 2020-21 – believes the dynamic duo have continually pushed each other to raise the bar under Conte, in part due to the competition provided by having the experienced Alexis Sanchez in the squad.

"We built our relationship from the first day he arrived," Martinez said of Lukaku.

"The year before he had watched Inter's matches and we talked about this for two or three hours after the first training session. He speaks Spanish, we understood each other immediately.

"I always tell him that there is a match between the three of us, because every training session we try to improve and give our best.

"Each one has taken a step forward this year and this is important for the growth of Inter and this group."

The long-term futures of Jesse Lingard and Jadon Sancho are set to become clearer soon.

Lingard has impressed on loan from Manchester United at West Ham, reviving his career as David Moyes' side push to secure European football for next season.

England international Sancho, meanwhile, has dazzled since moving to Germany - but is he now ready to return home?

 

TOP STORY - LINGARD AND SANCHO TO SWAP PLACES

The Sun reports that Manchester United will offer Jesse Lingard to Borussia Dortmund as part of a swap deal for Jadon Sancho.

United chased Sancho last year but were unable to land the winger due to Dortmund's asking price.

It is understood the value held by the Bundesliga club is around £100million (€116m), so Lingard's inclusion may help drive that down and seal a deal.

 

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- The Times claims that Manchester City have formalised the top four players on their off-season shopping list in forwards Erling Haaland, Harry Kane, Lautaro Martinez and Andre Silva.

- Manchester United are preparing a bid for Atletico Madrid midfielder Marcos Llorente worth £68m (€79m), reports the Mirror.

- Off-contract Southampton full-back Ryan Bertrand is attracting interest from Leicester City, claims the Leicester Mercury.

- Per Marca, Barcelona have an agreement in place to sign Memphis Depay, who is soon to be out of contract at Lyon. The Dutch forward is set to be reunited with Ronald Koeman at Camp Nou.

Lautaro Martinez's contract renewal discussions are "on standby" until Inter's "situation" becomes clearer, according to the striker's agent Alejandro Camano.

Martinez, 23, is approaching the end of his third season in Italy, with 2020-21 already his most prolific in Serie A having scored 16 times in 36 matches.

Once a target for Barcelona, speculation around Martinez has been much quieter this season, with the exception of tentative claims lately that Real Madrid see him as a potential alternative to Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland.

The Argentina international has two years left on his Inter contract, but he and Camano seem reluctant to rush into a new agreement.

Although the club have just won their first Scudetto since 2010, Inter have significant financial problems, with Sky Sport Italia recently claiming president Steven Zhang has asked the players to give up their wages for two months to ease the burden.

Inter vice-president Javier Zanetti accepts their money worries are "serious", though he did not comment on stories suggesting players have been urged to surrender their wages.

Nevertheless, Martinez will not be discussing a new deal while Inter's situation remains uncertain, and there was a sign of unrest on Wednesday as Antonio Conte told the striker to "show respect" when he reacted petulantly to being taken off against Roma despite having been substituted on earlier in the match.

"I can't promise anything, at present it is useless to make predictions," Camano told Gazzetta dello Sport. "We, like others, first want to understand what the future of the club will be.

"[The renewal] is absolutely on standby. For the moment there's no meeting [scheduled]. I think we'll see each other once the championship is over.

"We are calm, but the current situation of Inter prevents us from making any predictions. The boy is happy in Milan, he has just won a Scudetto as a protagonist, but we cannot help but wait."

Camano was also asked to address the Madrid rumours, and he stressed he is not talking to any other club either.

"I reply by saying that I am not talking to any club," the agent said. "Lautaro is an Inter player and he still has a two-year contract, Inter is still the priority.

"As mentioned, however, it is a question of understanding what will happen from a corporate point of view."

Camano also represents Martinez's Inter team-mate Achraf Hakimi, who in the past week or so has been linked with Bayern Munich.

However, Camano expects him to remain in San Siro.

"Achraf's situation is different as he still has a four-year contract. Today, I say he remains," he said.

What does the future hold for Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez?

The pair helped Inter to their first Scudetto since 2009-10.

But both could depart San Siro as Inter look to cut costs.

 

TOP STORY – LUKAKU AND LAUTARO TO LEAVE INTER?

Inter could be forced to sell star forwards Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez, according to Corriere dello Sport.

Antonio Conte's Inter have been crowned Serie A champions this season, but the Nerazzurri have financial problems as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lukaku has been linked with former club Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid, while team-mate Martinez has long been tipped to join Barca.

Alessandro Bastoni is also listed in the report amid links to Manchester City and Liverpool, while star full-back Achraf Hakimi is said to be of interest to Arsenal and Bayern Munich.

 

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- The front page of Thursday's Mundo Deportivo reports Barca look at the idea of signing City's Sergio Aguero favourably. Aguero is out of contract at season's end and he has been linked with Inter, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and Tottenham. But the Argentina star reportedly wants to play alongside countryman Lionel Messi. A move for Aguero would not prevent Barca from signing fellow free agent and Lyon captain Memphis Depay. Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland is also a target for the LaLiga giants. It comes amid doubts over the future of head coach Ronald Koeman.

Manchester United and Arsenal are battling to sign Sparta Prague sensation Abdallah Sima, claims the Mirror. Sima is reportedly valued at £25million (€29m).

- Sky Sports says United are interested in Juventus defender Cristian Romero, who could cost £34m (€40m). The 23-year-old Argentinian joined Atalanta on a two-year loan deal from Juve and the Serie A side have an option to buy Romero. United have also been linked with Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Lille defender Sven Botman, Villarreal centre-back Pau Torres and Real Madrid duo Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane.

- Former Chelsea boss Frank Lampard could replace Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace after emerging as a leading contender, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Lionel Messi and Erling Haaland together at Camp Nou?

Barcelona are among a host of clubs interested in Borussia Dortmund's Haaland.

Joan Laporta is reportedly fighting to bring Haaland to Spain.

 

TOP STORY – BARCA NOT GIVING UP ON HAALAND

Erling Haaland remains Barcelona's number one transfer target, according to Diario Sport.

Borussia Dortmund star Haaland has been linked with Barca, Real Madrid, Manchester CityChelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Despite their financial problems and cheaper alternatives, Barca are determined to prise Haaland to Camp Nou, though Inter's Lautaro Martinez and Tottenham star Harry Kane remain possible options.

 

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- Le10Sport claims Arsenal are desperate to lure Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga to London. Camavinga is in demand amid reported interest from Madrid, United and PSG. Mundo Deportivo, meanwhile, reports Barca are eyeing the France international as a replacement for Sergio Busquets.

- Milan intend on signing Fikayo Tomori on a permanent deal from Chelsea, reports Fabrizio Romano. Tomori has impressed since arriving at San Siro on loan. It comes as Chelsea work to extend Thiago Silva's contract.

- FT says Bayern star Kingsley Coman wants to double his wages in a contract extension. The France international has previously been linked with United.

- Liverpool have shown interest in Leeds United forward Patrick Bamford, according to The Athletic.

- Calciomercato reports Serie A champions Inter and Lazio are targeting Chelsea veteran Olivier Giroud, who is set to leave Stamford Bridge amid the Blues' links with Bayern star Robert Lewandowski and City free agent Sergio Aguero.

Inter notched up a club record 14 consecutive home wins in Serie A as two goals from Alexis Sanchez gave them a 5-1 win over Sampdoria on Saturday.

The recently-crowned Serie A champions took the lead in the fourth minute when Roberto Gagliardini guided the ball beyond Emil Audero.

Sanchez gave a reminder of his quality with a classy finish to increase Inter's lead before ex-Inter man Antonio Candreva pulled a goal back for Sampdoria.

Another fine finish from Sanchez made it 3-1 heading into half-time before Antonio Conte's side put a deserved gloss on the result with a clinical goal from Andrea Pinamonti and a Lautaro Martínez penalty.

Inter were serenaded by their fans outside San Siro and given a guard of honour by Sampdoria's players before kick-off having secured their first Scudetto in 11 years last weekend.

The Nerazzurri were quickly into their stride on the pitch and went ahead when Matias Vecino stole possession to setup a counterattack which culminated in Gagliardini sliding in to direct Ashley Young's cross into the net.

Achraf Hakimi almost scored a dazzling individual goal with a run from his own penalty area only to be denied by a fingertip save by the diving Audero.

Inter's second goal arrived just before the half hour when Sampdoria were again caught on the break as Gagliardini's clever pass found Sanchez who steered the ball home in style.

Sampdoria pulled a goal back moments later when Samir Handanovic was deceived by Candreva's miscued shot and tamely allowed the ball over the line.

Inter responded immediately with a piece of precise finishing from Sanchez, who met Hakimi's cross and found the corner of the net with a clipped finish from the just inside the box.

Conte's men were ruthless after the break as Pinamonti scored his first Inter goal in Serie A when he controlled an awkward ball and crisply dispatched it beyond Audero.

Sampdoria's Adrien Silva was deemed to have handled inside the area following a VAR check and Martinez fired the resulting spot-kick high into the net.

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."

Real Madrid and Kylian Mbappe – the two parties have long been tipped to come together.

Mbappe is out of contract at Paris Saint-Germain in 2022 and no closer to renewing his deal.

Madrid are reportedly moving closer to prising the France international to the Spanish capital.

 

TOP STORY – MBAPPE POISED FOR MADRID MOVE?

Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe is edging closer to joining LaLiga giants Real Madrid, according to Diario AS.

Mbappe has long been tipped to swap PSG for Madrid, though the Ligue 1 holds continue to try to re-sign the World Cup-winning forward.

PSG's Mbappe is determined to win the Champions League as he eyes the Santiago Bernabeu.


 

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- Le Parisien, though, claims PSG are holding out hope on teaming Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi with Mbappe and Neymar in Paris. Messi is set to become a free agent at the end of the season and he has been linked with PSG and Manchester City. Neymar has also been linked with a Barca return. However, Le Parisien reports PSG are prioritising a move for Messi while trying to retain Neymar and Mbappe.

Lautaro Martinez is on the verge of signing a new contract with Serie A champions Inter, says Gazzetta dello Sport. The Inter forward has been linked with Barca previously.

- Tuttosport reports star Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma is a primary transfer target for Serie A rivals Juventus. Donnarumma is out of contract at the end of the season and the Italy international has not agreed fresh terms with Milan.

Borussia Dortmund will ask for less than €100million (£86m) to sell Jadon Sancho amid interest from United, Chelsea and Liverpool, says Fabrizio Romano.

- The Mirror says Liverpool are eyeing Roma star Lorenzo Pellegrini as incoming Giallorossi boss Jose Mourinho looks to overhaul the squad in the Italian capital. The front page of Thursday's Gazzetto dello Sport, meanwhile, claims Mourinho is looking to bring Manchester United midfielder Nemanja Matic and Madrid's Isco to Roma.

- Soon-to-be free agent and City star Sergio Aguero is dreaming of a Barcelona move, according to Romano. InterTottenham and Chelsea have also emerged as options for the veteran forward.

Maurizio Sarri is a candidate to take charge of Milan if Stefano Pioli fails to guide the Rossoneri into the Champions League, claims Gazzetta dello Sport. Sarri was reportedly set to join Roma before Mourinho's appointment.

- Rennes sensation Eduardo Camavinga, Sassuolo's Manuel Locatelli and Mikel Merino of Real Sociedad are on Barca's shortlist to replace Sergio Busquets, reports Mundo Deportivo.

Romelu Lukaku maintained his impressive scoring run to help Inter to a 2-1 win over Sassuolo at San Siro that moves Antonio Conte's side 11 points clear at the top of Serie A.

The Belgium international scored for a fifth game running for club and country to open the scoring after 10 minutes and Inter did not look back in Wednesday's rescheduled clash.

Lukaku played in strike partner Lautaro Martinez for the home side's second and they held on for another win after Hamed Junior Traore had set up a nervy finale with a well-taken strike five minutes from time.

With this latest victory, Inter become just the second side in Serie A history - after Milan in 1989-90 - to win their first 10 games in the second half of a campaign.

Lukaku scored the only goal for Inter in their 1-0 win over Bologna last weekend and picked up from where he left off with Serie A goal number 21 of the season early on here.

Ashley Young sent in a right-footed cross from the left and former Manchester United team-mate Lukaku guided the ball into the far corner with a header from 10 yards.

Sassuolo were without a number of players through coronavirus concerns but would have been level if not for a fine Milan Skriniar block to thwart Jeremie Boga in the box.

The lively Boga tested Samir Handanovic the other side of the half-time interval as the visitors, who held Roma in their last match, started to pose more of a threat.

But Martinez gave Inter further breathing space by burying a low shot past Andrea Consigli once picked out by Lukaku on the counter.

Sassuolo felt Stefan de Vrij pulled back on the shirt of skipper Giacomo Raspadori in the build-up to Martinez's strike, but VAR did not feel the need to intervene.

Inter's win was not without a scare, though, as Traore curled a fine finish away from Handanovic following an Achraf Hakimi error, though there was to be no late leveller at San Siro.

Antonio Conte has seen evidence of "massive progress" in Lautaro Martinez's game both with and without the ball during his time as Inter coach.

Conte arrived at San Siro in 2019, a year after striker Martinez was signed from Racing Club.

The Argentina international's debut campaign had brought just nine goals and two assists in 35 games in all competitions, but those figures quickly improved under Conte.

Martinez tallied 21 goals and five assists in 49 outings last season and has scored 16 times and created six more for team-mates in 38 appearances in the 2020-21 campaign.

His minutes-per-goal rate has improved across his three seasons in Italy, this season finding the back of the net every 162.2 minutes.

Martinez is also creating more chances, 1.4 per 90 minutes, resulting in the increase in assists, but his work in defending from the front has been similarly impressive.

The 23-year-old has won possession in the final third 32 times this term (1.1 per 90) and posted 31 interceptions (also 1.1 per 90), comfortably more than in his previous two seasons combined.

Among Serie A forwards to score 15 or more goals in all competitions this season, Martinez leads the way in both categories as well as in recoveries per 90 (3.1).

Conte was asked about his number 10 ahead of Inter's game with Sassuolo on Wednesday, and said: "He has improved in all areas, on the ball and off the ball.

"He has improved when it comes to holding up possession and attacking the space.

"Like the other players, he has made massive progress. He needs to stay on this track. Taking his age into account, he has a very bright future ahead. It's in his hands."

Of those with 15 goals or more, Martinez's strike partner Romelu Lukaku ranked last for interceptions (0.1) and recoveries (1.6).

But Lukaku trails only Cristiano Ronaldo (31) in the scoring charts with 26 strikes in all competitions, and Conte is confident all of his players are contributing to the cause as Inter - eight points clear with Wednesday's game in hand - close on a first Scudetto since 2009-10.

"I think for every side putting the team first is the most important factor," the coach said. "Alone, you cannot win matches.

"It's the team that gets the best out of the individual. The players have understood the message. They are all pulling in the same direction."

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