Stefan de Vrij insisted Inter are not thinking about ongoing speculation over Mauro Icardi's future with the Serie A club.

Icardi is set to leave after being told he can depart Inter, with the former captain not wanted by new head coach Antonio Conte.

The 26-year-old star endured a turbulent 2018-19 campaign after he was stripped of the captaincy amid conflicting views of an apparent knee injury and internal disagreements with the club's hierarchy.

Icardi continues to dominate headlines, with the Argentina international reportedly prepared to see out the final two years of his contract but Inter defender De Vrij told Sportitalia: "The Icardi issue doesn't concern us. We're only thinking about what we have to do."

De Vrij was speaking after Inter opened the Conte era with a 2-1 win over Lugano in their first pre-season fixture on Sunday.

Stefano Sensi and Marcelo Brozovic scored for the Nerazzurri, who took to the field for the first time since Conte replaced Luciano Spalletti.

"It was a good start," said De Vrij. "It's always great to be back out on the pitch. We've worked incredibly hard this week but it was necessary to start getting minutes in the legs.

"These matches are needed to help us understand what the coach wants, and how we want to play. It went well, it was important to get off to a start like this."

On Conte, De Vrij added: "I like his approach, he’s always positive and he explains well what he wants."

Sensi – who swapped Sassuolo for Inter on an initial loan deal with the option to buy – opened the scoring in the 25th minute before Brozovic doubled the lead on the stroke of half-time.

Speaking after his first outing, Sensi told Inter TV: "We're especially pleased because we tried to demonstrate the coach's methods out on the pitch.

"My goal? I'm happy with it, it's always important to start on the right foot and I believe that I've done so."

Jose Mourinho believes Inter must win the Scudetto under Antonio Conte as the former Manchester United manager revealed he is studying German.

Inter are among the favourites to dethrone Italian champions Juventus following the arrival of head coach Conte for the 2019-20 season.

The Nerazzurri have already signed Diego Godin, Nicolo Barella, Stefano Sensi and Valentino Lazaro, while Conte is determined to prise Romelu Lukaku from United.

Mourinho spent two years at Inter – winning back-to-back Serie A titles and the Champions League – and the club great told Gazzetta dello Sport: "The Nerazzurri have to win Serie A this season. I'm sure they will."

Inter finished fourth last season, 21 points adrift of Juve under former boss Luciano Spalletti.

Mourinho, meanwhile, hinted at a future move to the Bundesliga as the Portuguese remains out of work.

After two and a half years at Old Trafford, Mourinho was sacked by United in December amid a bad run of form and reports of dressing-room unrest.

Mourinho has been linked with numerous jobs since leaving United, with Benfica, Lyon and most recently Newcastle United said to have been interested.

Asked about his future, Mourinho said: "I really miss football. I miss the adrenaline, the field, my job. Football is football.

"Right now, I am studying German. Bundesliga? Now, I'm studying German because I miss the language. I speak English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian. But I do not exclude anything, not even Germany."

Romelu Lukaku is "not afraid" to seek a transfer in order to find a club where he feels wanted, according to former Belgium coach Georges Leekens, who backed the striker to "take a little bit of revenge" by leaving Manchester United.

Inter are reportedly keen to take Lukaku to San Siro and the 26-year-old told reporters they would "know something next week" after United's friendly win over Perth Glory on Saturday.

Lukaku did not play against Perth but is expected to feature when the Red Devils face Leeds United on Tuesday, and Solskjaer said the club have not received any acceptable bids for the Belgium international.

Leekens said he feels Solskjaer's arrival as manager in December 2018 was the start of the end for Lukaku at United, telling The Mirror: "He's a fantastic footballer, but the change of coach at Manchester hasn't worked well for him.

"He looked released when he played for Belgium and you saw that in the way he played and scored in the recent qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Scotland.

"He needs confidence, he needs to feel wanted. When you hesitate over picking him, he feels it and he doesn't forget it.

"The moment he feels there's a doubt over him, he won't hesitate to do what he thinks is best."

Leekens is not the first to recommend that Lukaku moves on, with current Belgium boss Roberto Martinez having already opined that "it would be a good thing for both parties" if the former Everton target man secures a switch.

Lukaku cost United £76million (€84.7m) in July 2017 and he scored 16 Premier League goals in his first season at Old Trafford, followed by 12 league strikes last season.

The United board are thought to be unmoved by Inter's reported offer of €70million (£63m) – comprising of a two-year loan and a €60m obligation to buy, but Leekens insisted a transfer to Serie A would be the best outcome.

"Now I think it's the right moment for him to go to Italy, to a country where the football is more tactical," said the 70-year-old, who coached Belgium from 2010 to 2012.

"He will like to take a little bit of revenge – and show Manchester United what they have been missing.

"He has shown in the past that he's not afraid to leave a club."

The future of James Rodriguez has dominated headlines this off-season.

Napoli have been tipped to sign James after Bayern Munich opted not to take up their permanent option to sign the Real Madrid midfielder.

However, James could be set to remain in the Spanish capital.

 

TOP STORY – ATLETICO SET FOR SHOCK SWOOP

Atletico Madrid are close to completing the signing of James Rodriguez from LaLiga rivals Real Madrid, according to Marca.

Napoli have been favourites to lure James to Italy, with the Serie A side keen to reunite the Colombia star and head coach Carlo Ancelotti.

However, negotiations have dragged on and James – who spent the past two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich – is reportedly keen to make the switch across town.

 

ROUND-UP

- According to le10sport, Barcelona have offered Philippe Coutinho in a straight swap for Paris Saint-Germain star Neymar. LaLiga champions Barca reportedly do not have money to spend after paying Antoine Griezmann's release clause.

- Sky Sports reports Arsenal have made an improved £25million offer for Celtic left-back Kieran Tierney. Meanwhile, BBC Sport claims the Gunners have not submitted a bid for Lille forward Nicolas Pepe as they cannot afford the €80m-rated star.

- Harry Maguire has told Leicester City he wants to leave amid growing speculation he will join Manchester United, says the Daily Mail.

- According to the Daily Mail, Bayern Munich have not given up on signing Chelsea youngster Callum Hudson-Odoi. The Bundesliga champions are reportedly set to make a £45million offer. Bayern are also interested in Tottenham right-back Kieran Trippier, Sky Sports understands.

Juventus goalkeeper Mattia Perin is close to moving to Portuguese champions Benfica, according to Gianluca Di Marzio. Perin is looking for regular football following Gianluigi Buffon's return to Turin, where Wojciech Szczesny is the number one.

- The Mirror says Liverpool have joined Arsenal, Manchester City, Manchester United, Tottenham, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the race to sign CSKA Moscow striker Fedor Chalov.

Juventus could use Moise Kean in a deal to sign Inter outcast Mauro Icardi, according to FCInterNews.it. Rai Sport has also claimed Juve could take Icardi on loan with an option to buy for €40million.

Inter chief executive Giuseppe Marotta said he is "optimistic about everything" amid the club's ongoing battle to sign Manchester United's Romelu Lukaku.

Lukaku revealed that he expects an update on his future next week as Inter try to prise the Belgium star from Old Trafford, where Marcus Rashford has become Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's first-choice striker.

Antonio Conte's Inter have made no secret of their interest in the 26-year-old, but the Serie A side's reported offer of €70million (£63m) – comprising of a two-year loan and a €60m obligation to buy – has apparently fallen short of United's €83m asking price.

Asked if he was optimistic about Lukaku following speculation Inter could turn to Eintracht Frankfurt's Ante Rebic, CEO Marotta told reporters: "Yes, I am optimistic about everything."

Lukaku was not included in the squad for United's 2-0 win over Perth Glory in their opening pre-season fixture in Australia on Saturday.

The former Chelsea striker – contracted to the Red Devils until 2022 with the option of a further year – joined United from Everton for £75m in 2017.

Lukaku, who has acknowledged a desire to play in Italy and hinted his future could be away from Manchester, scored 12 Premier League goals last season.

He scored 15 goals across all competitions as United finished sixth in the Premier League and lost to Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals.

Romelu Lukaku expects an update on his future next week as Inter look to lure the striker away from Manchester United.

Lukaku joined United from Everton in 2017 and has scored 28 Premier League goals across his two seasons at Old Trafford, but he has been a regular target for criticism from fans.

The Belgium international has received flak for his technical ability, control and perceived lack of ruthlessness in front of goal, finding himself usurped as first-choice striker by Marcus Rashford last term after Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho as manager.

Inter have made no secret of their interest in the 26-year-old, but their reported offer of €70million (£63m) – comprising of a two-year loan and a €60m obligation to buy – is said to have fallen significantly short of United's €83m asking price.

With media reports on Friday suggesting Lukaku is more likely to stay at United than leave, the striker suggested news is imminent.

Speaking after United's 2-0 friendly win over Perth Glory, which Lukaku missed due to injury, he told reporters: "You guys [the media] will know something next week."

Furthermore, Solskjaer expects Lukaku to feature in the Red Devils' next pre-season game against Leeds United on Wednesday, though the United manager was less definitive about whether the striker will still be at the club when the Premier League season starts.

"There's been so much speculation, but yes, he should be fit for Wednesday and he trained with the team yesterday [Friday] but it wasn't useful to risk him [against Perth], to be fair," Solskjaer said.

"Can I see him staying? Let's see when the season starts. We've not had any bids we're considering.

"All my conversations I will keep confidential, that's my privilege and I can promise them that I won't tell them our discussions."

Paul Pogba is another big-name United player being linked with a move and he refused to offer any clarification over his future after Saturday's match.

When asked about his situation, Pogba said: "Who needs to talk? There's no need."

One person who has felt the need to talk is Pogba's agent Mino Raiola, who confirmed earlier this month the France international wants to leave United.

Mauro Icardi has moved closer to a San Siro exit after mutually agreeing with Inter to withdraw from the club's pre-season tour of Asia.

Giuseppe Marotta, Inter's chief executive, recently told the striker he was no longer wanted and a divorce appears to be nearing fruition.

Icardi left the Nerazzurri's training camp in Switzerland on Saturday and will be excluded from upcoming friendlies against Manchester United, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

Inter confirmed the development in a statement published to social media.

It read: "Mauro Icardi will today return to Milan from our training camp in Lugano.

"The club and the striker have come to this decision by mutual agreement.

"Icardi will continue his pre-season training over the next few days and will take no part in our summer tour in Asia."

Whether Inter can find an appropriate suitor for their controversial former captain remains unclear.

Juventus have been linked and Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis, who admitted to being interested, has claimed Icardi is set on a switch to the Serie A champions.

The 26-year-old has spent six seasons at Inter.

Antonio Conte's men meet local Swiss side Lugano on Sunday before jetting off to face Premier League outfit United in Singapore.

Inter captain Samir Handanovic fired a broadside that seemed to be aimed at unwanted stars Mauro Icardi and Radja Nainggolan when he called for players to respect their "duties towards the club".

Icardi was stripped of the Inter captaincy last season amid conflicting views of an apparent knee injury and internal disagreements with the club's hierarchy, while Nainggolan was suspended by the Nerrazurri midway through a turbulent first term at San Siro.

Chief executive Giuseppe Marotta confirmed both players have been told they can leave the club, and Handanovic indicated they would not be missed by a squad beginning to thrive under the rules being laid down by new coach Antonio Conte and team manager Gabriele Oriali.

"We are happy that Lele Oriali has returned as team manager, because he is the link between the club and squad, he sees everything," Handanovic told a news conference.

"He is here because we want to get back to having the values that were lost over the years. Players have duties towards the club too, they can't just think they are allowed to do anything because they are talented.

"With Oriali's return and Conte in charge, we can improve a great deal."

The future remains unclear for Icardi and Nainggolan, but Handanovic indicated his support for the club's decision to let both players leave, saying: "The club has been clear in its position. I do not need to add anything more."

He went on to speak about his approach to captaining the team, doubling down on the insinuation that Icardi failed to commit to the responsibility.

"I feel great pride in wearing the captain's armband," said Handanovic.

"My attitude has not changed, though. A captain is someone who takes responsibility and speaks when he has to, trying always to be fair.

"It takes many captains in a team, as one is not enough."

Paul Pogba's future at Manchester United seems to be getting messy and Juventus have no interest in being involved.

Linked with Real Madrid, Pogba, 26, wants to leave Old Trafford in the close season, according to his agent.

But United will demand plenty for the France international and his former club Juve are no longer in the race.

 

TOP STORY – MAN UNITED RAISE POGBA PRICE AS JUVE GIVE UP

Manchester United are now asking for €200.5million (£180m) for Pogba, according to the Mirror and The Sun.

The reports say the Premier League giants were angered by Pogba's agent Mino Raiola expressing his client's desire to leave.

Pogba arrived at United for £89m in 2016 and the club's latest asking price is more than double that.

But there will be no Turin return for Pogba, with the Daily Mail saying Juventus have ended their interest, opening the door for Real Madrid.

ROUND-UP

- One player set to head to the Serie A champions is Matthijs de Ligt. De Telegraaf report Juventus and Ajax have reached an agreement of €70m plus variables for the star centre-back.

- Barcelona seem to be making some progress in their pursuit of Neymar. According to Bild, Barca will offer up a list of four players to Paris Saint-Germain, who would agree to sign three and accept a fee in the region of €130m. Reports suggest the likes of Philippe Coutinho, Ousmane Dembele, Samuel Umtiti and Nelson Semedo are expendable at Camp Nou.

- Inter's chase of Romelu Lukaku has appeared difficult and there are few signs of that changing any time soon. Manchester United want more than €83.5m (£75m) – what they paid for the striker in 2017 – for the Belgium international, according to BBC Sport, leading to suggestions Lukaku is set to stay at Old Trafford.

- Manchester United reportedly want Sporting CP midfielder Bruno Fernandes, but A Bola report the Premier League giants first want to sign a centre-back, having been linked with the likes of Leicester City defender Harry Maguire. The Sun say United are also targeting Benfica and Portugal centre-back Ruben Dias.

- Hakim Ziyech impressed for Ajax last season, but not quite enough to earn a move to Arsenal. According to BBC Sport, the Premier League club have ended their interest in the attacker.

- West Ham are searching for a replacement for Marko Arnautovic after the forward's move to China. The Guardian say West Ham have held talks with Eintracht Frankfurt over Sebastien Haller, who is valued at around £40m (€44.6m) and is also a reported target for Manchester United.

Lionel Messi should join Inter if he wants to play with Lautaro Martinez, says the latter's agent.

Martinez has been linked with Barcelona, although Friday's capture of Atletico Madrid forward Antoine Griezmann may end that speculation.

Messi and Martinez teamed up at the Copa America as Argentina reached the semi-finals before losing to hosts Brazil.

Beto Yaque, Martinez's representative, previously confirmed Barcelona have shown interest in his client, but the agent said the striker will be staying put at Inter.

"He can't wait to start with [new Inter head coach Antonio] Conte," Yaque told FC Inter News. "Messi's words? Being praised by the best in the world is beautiful and very satisfying.

"Lautaro was extremely happy. These words gave him contentment and the desire to work even harder to improve, learn new details and aim to achieve the goals he set himself one day.

"Lautaro only thinks about Inter. He is happy at Inter and dreams big. Conte called him to tell him how to work, that he relies on him and that he is very happy to have him on the team.

"It is true that there is interest on the part of the Blaugrana for Martinez. None of the Spanish club has contacted us officially. They are rumours that somehow we know to be truthful. But I repeat: Lautaro remains in Milan.

"Let's close it with a joke: if Messi wants to play with Martinez, then he goes to Inter. Let's hope. It would be great for the Nerazzurri if that happened!"

Inter have confirmed former captain Mauro Icardi is free to leave, along with midfielder Radja Nainggolan, with the club reportedly interested in Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku and Roma's Edin Dzeko.

"What changes if Lukaku and Dzeko arrive? I believe that there must always be healthy competition," Yaque added.

"Nowhere in the world does anyone have the place bought or insured. I know perfectly well that Inter can negotiate huge level strikers, but I believe blindly in Lautaro's qualities and in what he can give."

Inter signed Nicolo Barella from Cagliari on Friday, the midfielder joining initially on loan although the club have an obligation to complete a permanent deal potentially worth up to €50million for the Italy international.

Inter have announced the signing of Nicolo Barella from Cagliari on an initial one-year loan, with an obligation to buy at the end of that period.

Barella will spend the 2019-20 season at San Siro before joining the Nerazzurri permanently on a five-year contract.

Inter are reported to have paid a €12million loan fee for Barella, who will then cost €25m next year, with the deal including a potential €13m in add-ons, taking the transfer to a total value of €50m.

"He's not shy on the pitch, he's not afraid," Inter said of Barella in a club statement. "He gets involved in tackles on many occasions because he wants to win back the ball, because he wants to win.

"Last season, he was the player who regained possession the most out of all the players in the league, while he's also the midfielder who has won the most duels in the past two seasons."

Barella, 22, has won seven senior caps for Italy but was part of the squad that underperformed last month at the European Under-21 Championship in Poland.

Cagliari said goodbye to Barella, who made 112 appearances for the club, in an emotional statement.

"In the life of every boy, sooner or later the time comes to leave home to continue on his own journey," Cagliari said on the club's official website. "It is with a touch of emotion that the club sees Nicolo leaving today.

"Born in Cagliari, a supporter of his city team, he grew up carrying more and more responsibility on his shoulders: with Sardinian pride he developed the temper of the leader, without trembling in front of the most difficult challenges and even wearing the captain's armband. 

"This Rossoblu home will always be yours too. Goodbye, Nicolo."

Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio confirmed the Serie A club have made an "official approach" to Manchester United for Romelu Lukaku.

United striker Lukaku has emerged as a transfer target for Inter, who sent officials to England to try to reach a deal for the Belgium international.

Lukaku – contracted to the Red Devils until 2022 with the option of a further year – joined United from Everton for £75million in 2017 and the Premier League giants want to recoup that fee as Inter push for an initial loan deal.

Ausilio arrived back in Milan on Thursday and he told reporters: "We had a meeting with Manchester United for Lukaku.

"It was an official approach between two important clubs. We'll see what happens.

"All the players we're following are targets we've agreed with Antonio Conte. We want to satisfy his request within certain financial parameters."

Lukaku, who has acknowledged a desire to play in Italy and hinted his future could be away from Old Trafford with United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer preferring Marcus Rashford up front, scored 12 Premier League goals last season.

The 26-year-old – in Australia for the club's pre-season tour – scored 15 goals across all competitions as United finished sixth in the Premier League and lost to Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals.

 

Lautaro Martinez's agent Alberto Yaque confirmed LaLiga champions Barcelona are interested in signing the Inter forward.

Martinez, 21, has been linked with a €112million move to Barca, just one season after joining Inter from Racing Club.

The Argentina international scored nine goals in all competitions – six in Serie A – last term and emerged as the focal point of Inter's attack amid the fallout between Mauro Icardi and the club.

Asked about speculation linking Martinez to Barca, Yaque told Ole: "Talk of Barcelona's interest is true.

"No-one's called us, but we know that they've been looking at him strongly. It's true that Barcelona like him."

Inter have been busy in the transfer market following Antonio Conte's appointment as head coach in place of Luciano Spalletti.

The Nerazzurri have signed Diego Godin, Valentino Lazaro and Stefano Sensi, while they are reportedly poised to announce the arrival of Cagliari midfielder Nicolo Barella amid ongoing talks with Manchester United over Romelu Lukaku.

Meanwhile, Barca have lured Frenkie de Jong and Neto to the club as they also look to sign Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann and Ajax captain Matthijs de Ligt.

 

Milan Skriniar has reiterated his commitment to Inter as the Nerazzurri aim to challenge in Serie A under new coach Antonio Conte.

Skriniar signed a new long-term contract with Inter in May amid reported interest from a number of Europe's major clubs.

Former Inter boss Luciano Spalletti, however, did not stay on at San Siro, with the club choosing to replace him with former Juventus and Italy coach Conte.

Inter - who finished fourth last term - are undergoing something of a rebuild, with Radja Nainggolan, a regular under Spalletti, and Mauro Icardi both likely to leave the club, while Romelu Lukaku is a reported target.

But Skriniar insists he has no plans to move on and is instead focusing on helping Inter test Juve's domestic dominance.

"I've always said I wanted to stay here, I'm happy to be here," Skriniar told Sky Italia.

"With the new coach, there could be a new system so we also have to work for this, to always do better.

"There is a great desire to work to improve. It is working hard and well, and it is important. We knew what was waiting for us with the new coach and he has been himself immediately since the first training session.

"What we know is that we have to work from the first day to the maximum because our goal is to fight for the top places."

James Rodriguez's potential move to Napoli is being held up by Real Madrid's unreasonable asking price, according to Partenopei president Aurelio De Laurentiis.

LaLiga giants Madrid reportedly want more than €40million for playmaker James, who has spent the past two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich.

Coach Carlo Ancelotti is eager to be reunited with the player he coached in Spain and Germany, but a stalemate in negotiations is said to have alerted Atletico Madrid.

Napoli are remaining calm, with De Laurentiis confident the Colombia international favours a switch to Stadio San Paolo.

"Carlo likes him very much and we're waiting for a more reasonable demand," De Laurentiis told Corriere dello Sport.

"The obstacle is Real Madrid, who are asking for too much in our opinion.

"But James wants to come to Napoli."

Mauro Icardi is one player who will not be joining Ancelotti's side, despite the striker being told he can leave Inter.

De Laurentiis acknowledged he enquired about the Argentina international, but found him to be set on joining Serie A champions Juventus, and the Napoli chief will not entertain a swap deal involving Lorenzo Insigne.

"[Icardi] will always want to go to Juventus," he said.

"Anyway, I prefer Insigne, because we need him, and then we have [Arkadiusz] Milik and [Dries] Mertens.

"We can't ignore Icardi's talent, he's a very strong player, but we've talked about him so much now that he looks older than 26."

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