Romelu Lukaku has moved a step closer to leaving Manchester United for Italy after describing Inter Milan’s new coach Antonio Conte as ‘the best manager in the world’.
Lukaku has made it clear that he would welcome a move to Italy two years after joining United for £75million and rejecting the chance to play for Conte at Chelsea.
United are prepared to listen to offers for the Belgium international but want to recoup the transfer fee they paid Everton two years ago.
Inter value the 26-year-old striker closer to £50m and would prefer to include players as part of the deal, although that proposal is understood to have been rejected by United.
The Italian club are now expected to make a formal offer for Lukaku after he heaped praise on Conte, although they face competition from Juventus, where Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri is set to take charge, and Carlo Ancelotti’s Napoli.
‘I was always a big fan of the Italian league,’ said Lukaku after scoring twice in Belgium’s Euro 2020 qualifying win over Scotland.
‘People close to me, they know I have two leagues that I always dreamed about, which is the Premier League and Serie A so you know, I love Italy.
‘Now Antonio Conte going back to Inter, which is really good because, to me, he’s the best manager in the world.
‘Then you have Maurizio Sarri going to Juventus, Ancelotti at Naples. I think Serie A will be really exciting next year and I’m really happy for Italian football.
‘Conte knows what I think about him.’
Lukaku’s agent Federico Pastorello has worked closely with both Inter and Juventus in the past, and is hoping to broker a deal this summer.
The Belgian’s future has been in doubt since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over in December and made Marcus Rashford his first-choice striker.
‘I’ve had a difficult season at club level,’ said Lukaku. ‘I lost my place and haven’t played much.
‘But that is a phase in my career and it will help me for the next step.
‘I have a contract with Man United. I’ll speak with my club and my agent to make the best decision.
‘I know what I’ll do, but won’t say it. We’ll see. Do I expect a busy summer? Yes.’
Barcelona, though, are set to abort their pursuit of Rashford after becoming convinced United will not do business.
The striker is currently in negotiations about a new deal — his contract expires in 2020 but the club can trigger a one-year extension — and would cost more than £100million to prise away from Old Trafford.
However, Barcelona hope they have laid the groundwork to persuade Rashford, 21, to assess United’s development before committing the next five years of his career to his current club.
Should Rashford continue to delay, Barcelona would be able to make a cut-price move for the forward next summer when only one year remains on his deal.