Antonio Conte has hit back at critics of Romelu Lukaku for calling him a ‘donkey’ when he first signed for Inter Milan from Manchester United after the striker bagged another brace.
Lukaku is the second highest scorer in the Italian Serie A, behind only Lazio’s Ciro Immobile, and took his tally for the campaign to 14 with a double in Inter’s 3-1 win over Napoli on Monday.
The Belgian’s form marks a big transformation from his disappointing final campaign at Old Trafford, where he scored just 12 times in the Premier League and was criticised by supporters on social media.
Conte is well aware of the abuse Romelu Lukaku has received and believes his desire to sign the Belgium international has been fully vindicated, while he expects him to get even better.
‘I heard people say Lukaku was a donkey… I heard all sorts not even that long ago!’ said Conte after the win over Lazio.
‘It’s easy to speak highly of Lukaku now, but if we look back to a few weeks ago…
‘I always said Romelu was a rough diamond that needed work to smooth him out. Lautaro Martinez is the same. These lads are 26 and 22 years old, they are still young.
‘I wanted Romelu very strongly when I was at Chelsea, even back at Juventus. I wanted him, now I can get to work on polishing the diamond.’
Lukaku and Martinez have now scored 23 goals between them in the league – and 30 in all competitions – and the Belgian says their good relationship off the pitch is helping them click on it.
‘We are good friends, do a lot of things together off the field too, and when we are on the pitch, we like to set each other up,’ Lukaku told Sky Sport Italia after his brace against Lazio.
‘I am really happy with the way we are doing at the moment, but we can do much better.’