Antonio Conte

Lukaku ‘didn’t have the energy’ for another year at Man Utd

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Romelu Lukaku has revealed he “didn’t have the energy” for another year or the constant criticism and drama which he endured during his final season at Manchester United, prompting him to leave for Inter Milan last summer.

[ MORE: Report: Donnarumma learning English ahead of PL move ]

Speaking to Arsenal legend Ian Wright in a video interview on Wright’s YouTube channel (video above), Lukaku opened up about his second-season struggles at Old Trafford and explained his thought process which ultimately led him to leave Man United for $90 million — excerpts from Sky Sports:

“One bad year can happen to everybody in their career. It was just done for me. You know what happened behind the scenes, it was just done. For me, it was done.

“It was a difficult situation where for myself I had to make a decision where I have to go somewhere where I can learn other aspects of my game and work with somebody that wanted me as well.

“Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] wanted me to stay, but I told him I was over. I didn’t have the energy. All credit to him because he’s been a man and he helped me make the move away.”

“It’s a club that gave me a platform that I’ve never seen in my life, so for me to be disrespectful about Man United or any other club I played for in England, I think, is a bit childish. I think I went past that stage of talking back to people.”

As for where he landed, Lukaku revealed that Inter and Juventus were both interested in acquiring his services, but it was the chance to play for Antonio Conte which sold him on the club from Milan.

“It was close. It was really close but my mind was always set on Inter… and the manager. When I was a kid, Inter was my team in Italy. I looked up to Adriano and Ronaldo.

“Obviously when Inter came, the club, the manager Conte that wanted me at Chelsea and when he was at Juve as well, I was like now it’s time to go over there and see what it’s like, but just keep my head down and work.”

Barcelona prepared to meet $124M release clause for Martinez

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Lautaro Martinez’s incredible season is paying off big time for Inter Milan.’

The Serie A side reportedly resisted big money overtures from Barcelona this summer, pointing to his approximate $124 million release clause.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Now Barca is said to be prepared to meet that clause in order to land Martinez.

Football-Espana says that a cash-plus-player deal is the other option. Barca would be willing to send Arturo Vidal or Ivan Rakitic, while Antonio Conte would prefer Nelson Semedo or Arthur.

Signing the 22-year-old Argentine could help sate the concern of countryman Lionel Messi, who’s watched Barca fail to provide him adequate reinforcements as Real Madrid stockpiled young talent. Messi was reportedly disappointed that the Blaugranas failed to pony up for Neymar this summer.

Martinez has 16 goals and four assists in 31 matches this season, including a goal against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.

He’s Inter’s second-leading scorer behind Romelu Lukaku, and the Serie A side has nine points insulation on the UCL chasing pack with a match-in-hand.

Barca is going to have get rid of some players to pay big for Martinez, with Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele challenging the club on different levels. And who knows who else may want to leave Barcelona given its messy season (maybe really messy is a better choice)?

Serie A roundup: Dybala, Ramsey strike against Inter, put Juventus back on top of Serie A

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Juventus’ complete performance against Inter Milan highlights Sunday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Juventus 2-0 Inter Milan

Aaron Ramsey and Paulo Dybala each scored, as Juventus ran past Inter Milan in front of an empty Allianz Stadium, which, like all other sporting events in Italy until April 3, was empty due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The victory sends the Old Lady back to the top of Serie A, giving them a one-point lead on second best Lazio and a nine-point lead on third-place Inter. Juventus are one of three Serie A teams with an active three-match winning streak.

After a standstill during the first 45 minutes, Cristiano Ronaldo touch inside the box found a opportune Ramsey, who belted the ball into the back of the net. It’s the Wales international’s second goal in back-to-back Serie A bouts, and Maurizio Sarri is happy with his effectiveness.

“He [Ramsey] maintains that he needs to see more of the pitch in front of him, or he gets a little lost,” said the Juve coach. “He is doing well in this role, although in fairness he’s also in much better physical condition now than he was when playing as a trequartista.”

For a team that dominated the league during the first half of the season, not all is well for Antonio Conte and Inter, losers of their last two league matches. The Italian was quick to mention that his players must grown from such defeats, quickly.

“We tried to stay in their slipstream, but must learn from defeat and take the lessons of comparison to grow in terms of character, quality and strength,” he said.

“It’s a loss that must help us to grow and understand how far away we are,” he added. “It certainly shouldn’t make us distraught, as we knew there was a gap and we lost both meetings with them. The results speak clearly, they won two and we got zero points.”

With a win in hand, Juventus steer their attention towards Friday’s match against Bologna, while Inter host Getafe in Europa League’s Round of 16 action.

Elsewhere in Serie A 

Parma 0-1 Spal

Sampdoria 2-1 Hellas Verona

AC Milan 1-2 Genoa

Udinese 0-0 Fiorentina 

Colossal Juve-Inter clash could be played in empty stadium

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MILAN — Inter Milan coach Antonio Conte probably won’t have to sit through a torrent of boos when he returns to Turin for the first time to face former club Juventus.

That’s because there could be no fans there to see it.

[ MORE: Jurgen Klinsmann’s parting shots cause anger at Hertha Berlin ]

The Derby d’Italia, one of the season’s biggest matches, may be played in an empty stadium on Sunday because of the virus outbreak in northern Italy. The epicenter of the outbreak is in the Lombardy region, and Milan is its capital.

“I hope that from today there will be a regression in the diffusion of the virus so that I, too, can go see Juventus-Inter,” said Attilio Fontana, the governor of the Lombardy region. “We’re monitoring the situation. I’m very calm. We need to see what the situation is. It’s the same as for the schools. We’ll do a check Saturday and then we’ll see.”

Four Serie A matches scheduled for last weekend were postponed, including Inter’s match against Sampdoria. Italy has the most cases of the virus in Europe.

Serie A president Paolo Dal Pinto sent a letter to the government on Monday asking that games no longer be postponed in the affected areas but played without fans in attendance, something which Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said they were in agreement with.

[ MORE: Man City makes statement, comes back in Madrid ]

However, no official decree has been made by the Turin council and Serie A’s governing body has also yet to release a statement, giving rise to the hope fans could be allowed in.

Italy had 447 virus cases as of Wednesday. Twelve people have died, all of them elderly or suffering from other ailments, or both.

Italy has closed schools, museums and theaters in the two hardest hit regions and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo’Euganeo.

Inter’s Europa League match against Ludogorets was scheduled to go ahead in an empty stadium on Thursday.

On Sunday, Conte will return to Juventus as opposition coach for the first time since he left the club in 2014. Conte led Juventus to the first three of its eight straight league titles and also spent most of his playing career with the Bianconeri.

[ MORE: Alan Pardew confronted by frustrated Den Haag fans on training field ]

“Soccer needs the crowd, to hear the atmosphere around it,” Conte said. “That’s the best thing about the game, the atmosphere around the soccer being played. These decisions have been taken with public health in mind but I hope that everything returns to normal as soon as possible.”

Inter trails the Serie A leaders by six points, although it has played a match less. Juventus, meanwhile, will have to bounce back from Wednesday’s surprise 1-0 loss at Lyon in the Champions League.

“We didn’t play the match we wanted. We have a lot of work to do,” Juventus midfielder Aaron Ramsey said. “Let’s focus on ourselves and do better than we did today, starting on Sunday with Inter.”

Coronavirus: Italy may lift ban on sporting events by Monday

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MILAN — The Italian government could lift its ban on sporting events by Monday in areas affected by the coronavirus if the number of cases stabilizes.

The outbreak forced a number of sporting events to be called off throughout the country this past weekend, including four Serie A matches in the north of Italy.

This week, the ban on sporting events was extended from Lombardy, Veneto and Piedmont – the areas hardest hit by the outbreak – to also include the regions of Friuli Venezia Giulia, Emilia Romagna and Liguria, until March 1.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

“If, as I hope, the statistics don’t give us different signs then maybe already by Monday these measures won’t be continued,” Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said. “But it’s only Tuesday today and we have to wait and see what happens over the next few days. The health of the Italian citizens is the most important thing.”

Italy reported a 45% increase in the number of coronavirus cases Tuesday, from 222 to 300. Ten people have died, all of them elderly or suffering from other ailments.

“Obviously, I can’t say I’m not worried because I don’t want anyone to think we’re underestimating this emergency,” Premier Giuseppe Conte said before meeting with visiting World Health Organization representatives. “But we trust that with the measures we have implemented, there will be a containing effect in the coming days.”

Italy has closed schools, museums and theaters in the two regions where clusters have formed and troops are enforcing quarantines around 10 towns in Lombardy and the epicenter of the Veneto cluster, Vo’Euganeo.

Serie A matches this weekend are set to be played behind closed doors, including Juventus’ key match against Inter Milan. That game is not only potentially crucial to the title race but also sees the return of former Juventus coach Antonio Conte.

Inter’s Europa League match at home to Ludogorets on Thursday will also take place without any fans allowed in.

Serie C canceled all games in two leagues which have teams in the north. Volleyball and rugby games were also suspended nationwide through next weekend.

The Italian Winter Sports Federation suspended all of its events throughout the country for an entire week, although it said that “for now” next weekend’s World Cup ski races in La Thuile in the Valle d’Aosta region were still set to go ahead. Those races are operated by the International Ski Federation, which has already canceled races this season in China that were slated to test the course for the 2022 Beijing Games.