Antonio Conte wants to see Christian Eriksen become "more decisive" after the midfielder helped Inter to a 2-1 win over Sampdoria.

Eriksen set up Romelu Lukaku's opener and Lautaro Martinez also scored as Inter moved within six points of Serie A leaders Juventus with their victory at San Siro on Sunday.

Morten Thorsby pulled a goal back for Sampdoria during the second half, but Inter secured three points.

Eriksen had a game-high five shots and four key passes and Inter head coach Conte wants more from the midfielder.

"We had the chance to work with him. We had the time to improve from both physical and tactical point of view," Conte told a news conference.

"Nowadays he fits our project but he needs to be more decisive because he had many chances to score and he must score.

"But I am pleased the way he played, as the team, because we are going to play again in three days and those three points will be decisive for us."

Eriksen has scored two goals and provided as many assists in 10 games for Inter this season, having arrived from Tottenham in January.

Inter host Sassuolo in Serie A action on Wednesday.

Antonio Conte said Inter are still in the hunt for the scudetto, insisting his side hope to "achieve something extraordinary" in Serie A.

Inter – third in the standings – returned to league action following the coronavirus-enforced break with a 2-1 win over Sampdoria on Sunday.

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez were on target in a brilliant first half, both players capping fine team moves as Inter regrouped from their Coppa Italia semi-final exit at the hands of Napoli.

Conte's Inter are six points behind leaders Juventus through 26 games, and five adrift of Lazio in the race for silverware in Italy.

"This evening, we had no choice but to get the victory so we could close the gap to six points," head coach Conte said in a news conference.

"We fuel the hope that we can achieve something extraordinary. It's true that we could've sealed it earlier by making more of our chances, but instead we conceded at the first Samp attempt and got a little anxious. It was a good performance, anyway.

"I repeat, it's not a fitness issue, but when we have scoring opportunities and do not take them, which also happened in the Coppa Italia with Napoli, all it takes is one lucky ricochet and it's all up for grabs again.

"I hope these games will help us realise we must kill – in a sporting sense – the opponent and kill the game when we have the chance."

Inter next meet Sassuolo on Wednesday and Conte added: "We're six points off the top with 12 rounds to go. There's no margin for error, whereas Lazio and Juventus can have the odd mistake and get away with it.

"This is why need that ferocity in front of goal, because with a strong lead, we can then relax on the ball."

Romelu Lukaku issued a rallying cry to his Inter team-mates after Sunday's 2-1 win over Sampdoria saw them move six points behind Serie A leaders Juventus.

Both Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez were on target in the first half at San Siro as Inter bounced back from their Coppa Italia aggregate defeat to Napoli in the semi-finals.

Antonio Conte's side were slick in the opening 45 minutes, but they took their foot off the gas after the interval and Morten Thorsby pulled one back for struggling Sampdoria.

However, the win saw Inter remain in touching distance of Juve and second-placed Lazio, who are five points above the Nerazzurri with 12 games remaining.

"It was very important to win, as from now to the end of the season it's 12 finals, they are all life or death," Lukaku told Sky Sport Italia ahead of Wednesday's clash with mid-table Sassuolo.

"Now we have to focus and get fired up for Wednesday.

"Every game is tough from now and they will not be easy for anybody. We worked really well in training, the team is in good shape physically, but we have to keep going and get even stronger, because it's going to be a game every three days."

Lukaku's 10th-minute opener took his tally to 18 goals in his first season in Serie A since 1990, a total that only Ruben Sosa, Ronaldo and Diego Milito have previously managed in their debut campaigns with Inter.

However, he was guilty of spurning two other opportunities when Inter were well on top, and Conte was frustrated that his team did not put the game to bed earlier.

"When you have the opportunity, you have to kill the opponent," added Conte, who was still frustrated with Inter's second-leg draw against Napoli eight days earlier.

"Just look at the game with Napoli: you have the opportunity to win it, it ends 1-1 and you are criticised.

"Today you had to be bad, determined, cynical ... otherwise you get in trouble. It's not that you suffer, but you go from the possible 3-0 to 2-1, knowing that the game is as vital as they will all be from here to the end."

Antonio Conte has backed Christian Eriksen to prove his star quality for Inter during the Serie A title run-in.

Former Tottenham midfielder Eriksen experienced a stuttering start to his Inter career after moving to San Siro in January.

The Denmark international's performances came in for close scrutiny and he faced criticism as his arrival coincided with a dip in the team's form.

After looking set for a serious title challenge, Inter fell away before the coronavirus pandemic put the season on hold for three months.

They return to league action against Claudio Ranieri's Sampdoria on Sunday, with Conte bullish about Inter's prospects for their 13-game rush of upcoming matches.

Head coach Conte said Inter have been fine-tuning the tactics he believes can bring success to the Nerazzurri.

"As for Christian Eriksen, I think he's now found his feet and fully settled here," Conte added. "We are always trying and working on solutions to get the best out of the qualities of the players in the squad.

"I am pleased with how we have worked over this period."

Inter will be without Marcelo Brozovic due to a strain in his left leg and his fellow midfielder Stefano Sensi must sit out the game after a thigh pull.

Both are recent setbacks, but Conte is taking an optimistic view of Inter's prospects for the remainder of the campaign.

The Sampdoria fixture is a game in hand for Inter over leaders Juventus and second-placed Lazio.

"Should we win, we would cut the gap to the top to six points. Then, there are 12 league games to play. Personally, I don't think the gap is that massive," Conte said.

"I have positive feelings. But naturally I need to see the response in matches. We want to give our all in this end of season run-in.

"We are not ruling anything out. There are no limits to what we can achieve. I think the side has improved in all areas. I am very confident."

Conte has great respect for Ranieri, a Premier League champion four years ago with Leicester City.

Since joining Sampdoria in October, Ranieri has lifted the Genoa club off the foot of the table and up to 16th.

"Claudio Ranieri is an excellent coach," Conte said.

"He achieved something extraordinary at Leicester. But he's also a wonderful person. I've been lucky to get to know him and we meet up with our families

"I wish him all the best at Sampdoria, but only after they have played us."

Serie A resumes on Saturday, making it the latest major European League to return to action. 

The coronavirus pandemic forced most global sport to shut down in March, but the Bundesliga, LaLiga and Premier League have all recommenced their 2019-20 campaigns – albeit behind closed doors. 

Football has already returned in Italy, however, with Napoli edging out Juventus to lift the Coppa Italia trophy on Wednesday. 

But the top tier makes its comeback with a double-header of Torino v Parma and Hellas Verona v Cagliari on Saturday, with everything from relegation to the title still to be decided. 

As we look forward to the season's resumption, we glance back at the best Opta stats from Italy's top-flight campaign so far. 

JUVENTUS

- Juve have been trailing for 133 minutes in 2019-20, less time than any other team in Serie A this season.

- At home, Juve are unbeaten in their previous 34 league games (W29, D5), more than double the next best streak (Lazio at 15).

- This term, Cristiano Ronaldo equalled the record of 11 consecutive goalscoring appearances in a single Serie A season. He has also already levelled his haul of goals from 2018-19 despite making nine fewer appearances, averaging 0.95 goals per game compared to 0.68 last season.

- Among the players who made their debut in the three-points-for-a-win era, Ronaldo was the fastest to reach 42 goals (52 appearances) – before him the record was 58 games played (Vincenzo Montella, Andriy Shevchenko and Brazil great Ronaldo).

LAZIO

- Lazio are unbeaten in their previous 21 league games (W17 D4), already an all-time Serie A record for the club. Six of the seven previous teams with streaks as long as that in a single season went on to win the Scudetto (the only exception was Roma in 2009-10).

- Ciro Immobile has 27 goals in 26 games in 2019-20. Only Antonio Valentin Angelillo (29) in has managed more after 26 matchdays.

INTER

- Antonio Conte is the first Inter coach to see his team score in each of his first 19 games in all competitions.

- Inter have won nine of their 13 Serie A away games this season (D2 L2): only in the 2006-07 campaign have the Nerazzurri won more (11).

- Romelu Lukaku is one of three players to have scored at least 17 Serie A goals in their first 25 games of a debut season with Inter, emulating Giuseppe Meazza (1929-30) and Stefano Nyers (1948-49).

ATALANTA

- Atalanta's 70 goals in this Serie A campaign already represents their second-best haul in a single season (77 in 2018-19).

- No team has scored as many as 70 goals in the first 25 matches of a single Serie A season since 1959, when Fiorentina netted 79.

- Three Atalanta players are into double figures in terms of goals this season: Josip Ilicic, Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata. Only in 1949-50 and 1951-52 have the club had as many players reach 10 goals.

MILAN

- Since Stefano Pioli joined Milan, they have kept the most clean sheets in Serie A (seven).

- Since his first spell at Milan (which began in August 2010), Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 60 goals for the Rossoneri in all competitions, more than any other player with the club in the period.

"The idea of becoming a coach came to me during my last years as a player."

Massimo Carrera enjoyed a successful career as a defender, winning Serie A, Champions League, UEFA Cup, Coppa Italia and Supercoppa Italiana titles with Juventus in the 1990s.

Carrera, who earned a move to Juventus from Bari in 1991 before leaving Turin five years later, also went on to captain Atalanta before eventually retiring in 2008.

The 56-year-old now finds himself in charge of Greek giants AEK Athens.

He had his first taste of coaching, albeit briefly, at Juventus in 2012 after head coach Antonio Conte was handed a 10-month ban – later reduced to four months – for failing to report match-fixing.

Carrera, who played alongside Conte in Turin before reuniting with his former team-mate as technical director in 2011, stepped into the caretaker role and claimed the Supercoppa Italiana against Napoli.

"Being part of Juventus' staff and then even stepping in during that period was an unexpected and extraordinary experience for me," Carrera told Stats Perform News.

"I remember the first Supercoppa match against Napoli which we won [4-2 after extra time in Beijing]. I was very tense during the week leading up to the final but at the beginning of the match it was as if I had been training for years."

Despite being six years Conte's senior, Carrera soaked up the Italian's methods and formed a strong bond, which led to the pair teaming up again – this time with Italy.

Carrera was part of Conte's Azzurri staff as an assistant for Euro 2016. After Italy lost to Germany in the quarter-finals, Conte joined Premier League powerhouse Chelsea. All of his assistants followed to London, except one – trusted lieutenant Carrera joined Spartak Moscow as Dmitri Alenichev's assistant coach.

Having arrived in July, Carrera quickly went from assistant to caretaker manager and then permanent coach on a two-year deal the following month after Alenichev resigned.

"After Conte's return I resumed my role as assistant and during the European Championship, there was the opportunity to go to Spartak Moscow as Alenichev wanted me as assistant," Carrera said. "Driven by the fact that Conte, who was about to move to Chelsea, could not take all the staff with him, I accepted and I left for Moscow."

Carrera's decision to swap Italy for Moscow proved to be a wise one for coach and club after ending Spartak's 16-year wait for Russian Premier League glory.

No other Spartak coach managed a better start – Carrera's men collecting 28 of 36 points from the first 12 matches under the Italian – as they claimed their first league crown since 2001 ahead of rivals CSKA Moscow.

"It was an extraordinary experience for me. I remember when I became Spartak Moscow head coach, the situation was not easy and there was a lot of pressure," he continued. "The team hadn't won a league in 16 years and fans were upset.  We worked hard to do our best and it was a triumph because we were at the top of the standings from the first day of the championship."

The situation, though, turned sour as he was sacked by Spartak in October 2018 after finishing third the previous season, despite being a popular figure among fans.

"I was really sad about that [leaving Spartak] because I hadn't be able to complete my job despite being one point behind the runner-up team," Carrera added.

Fast forward to 2020 and Carrera is coaching one of Greece's biggest teams – 12-time Super League champions AEK.

AEK appointed Carrera in December last year following a sabbatical, replacing Nikolaos Kostenoglou in Athens.

The coronavirus pandemic halted Carrera's work in March but AEK have made an unbeaten start since returning earlier this month – drawing at home to rivals Panathinaikos and defeating OFI 2-0 on Sunday to stay second in the table, 17 points behind leaders Olympiacos and two clear of PAOK in the race for Champions League qualification in the play-off round.

"Now I'm here at AEK Athens, another great club. We started the play-offs and we are in the cup semi-final [against Aris on June 24]," Carrera said. "Our goal is to secure second place and win the Greek Cup.  AEK fans are very passionate, warm and close to the team."

AEK last won the league title in 2017-18 as Olympiacos and Panathinaikos continue to dominate, and Carrera added: "This gap can be eliminated by working hard and trying to add technical quality. It was not easy but having the technology on our side we managed to work by monitoring and watching the players."

Since Carrera moved to Athens Olympic Stadium, he has only overseen one defeat in 20 matches, with AEK in the midst of a 15-game unbeaten streak across all competitions. In total, Carrera has only lost 21 of his 119 games in charge of AEK, Spartak and Juve.

"I think I transmitted all the passion and emotion that I feel about football to the team," Carrera said.

As Carrera utilises his experiences under the likes of Giovanni Trapattoni and Marcello Lippi to make his mark in Europe, the one-time Italy international is dreaming of a fairytale return.

"Definitely go back to Juventus," Carrera said. "This is my dream!"

Antonio Conte felt Inter deserved to reach the Coppa Italia final after a second-leg draw away to Napoli saw them knocked out 2-1 on aggregate.

Inter had lost the home leg of the semi-final 1-0 at San Siro back in March, prior to the Italian season being shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Playing for the first time since the suspension, the Nerazzurri quickly erased the deficit as Christian Eriksen scored straight from a corner inside the opening two minutes at the San Paolo.

However, Dries Mertens' equaliser just before half-time – his 122nd goal for the club, making him Napoli's all-time leading scorer – proved crucial in deciding who would progress to face Juventus in Wednesday's final.

Conte was pleased with how his team performed overall, pointing to an inspired performance from Napoli goalkeeper David Ospina – as well as a lack of a ruthless streak in the final third – as the reasons behind them missing out on a trip to Rome.

"Looking at both matches, we deserved much more," the Inter boss said in his post-match interview with Rai Sport.

"In terms of the performance, I have very little to reproach the boys about. This is the football we want to play; we created a lot and were aggressive. Maybe we should have been more clinical in front of goal, but Ospina performed miracles.

"Their goal was disappointing because it was a careless situation that we could have avoided. But I'm satisfied because we're on the right path, we controlled the game against a strong Napoli team.

"My glass is half-full. We created numerous opportunities and had 18 efforts at goal. Ospina was the best player on the pitch.

"Obviously, we can improve, and we need to be more ruthless in the future, but I don't have anything to complain about in terms of desire and determination.

"We did what we'd worked on in training. It's disappointing for the lads not to qualify for the final because, based on what we did over the 180 minutes, we deserved to do so."

Inter now focus on a resumption of the Serie A season. Their first league fixture back is at home to Sampdoria next Sunday.

Arturo Vidal is happy to remain at Barcelona so long as he feels important at the club, despite rumours of a reunion with Antonio Conte at Inter.

The midfielder is aiming to help Barca retain their LaLiga title following the coronavirus-enforced suspension to the season, as they try to hold off rivals Real Madrid to be crowned champions again.

Vidal turned 33 during the break and while he has made 31 appearances in a 2019-20 campaign that has seen a change of head coach at Camp Nou, he has started only eight times in the league.

The Chile international is settled off the field but admits playing time - and more specifically a lack of it - will dictate his future in Spain beyond the completion of the 2019-20 campaign.

"There are two months left [of the season]. But I want to feel important and, if not, I have to look out for my career," Vidal said in an interview with El Periodico.

"In Barcelona it is spectacular, my family is happy and I have very good team-mates.

"I like to play, I like to feel important. I do not say [to play in] all the games, but those that are key, those that help win titles."

Inter have been linked with a move for Vidal, who previously worked with Nerazzurri boss Conte when the Italian was in charge of Juventus.

"We have a very good relationship," he said of Conte, who led Juve to three successive Serie A titles during his reign.

"You know I'm a winner, you know you can trust me. You understand? 

"That is what I want here [at Barcelona]. Let people trust [in me], we have two months left and I hope to have that confidence."

Serie A was given the green light to resume from June 20, making it the latest major European League to return to action.

The coronavirus pandemic forced most global sport into shutdown in March, but three rounds of Bundesliga fixtures have been played – albeit behind closed doors.

It was announced on Thursday that football in Italy will return with the Coppa Italia semi-finals on June 13, with the final taking place in the week leading up to the first Serie A fixtures in three months. The Premier League is also set to get back under way from June 17.

With the rest of the 2019-20 season now firmly within sight, we look back at the best Opta stats from Italy's top-flight campaign.

JUVENTUS

- Juve have been trailing for 133 minutes in 2019-20, less time than any other team in Serie A this season.

- At home, Juve are unbeaten in their previous 34 league games (W29, D5), more than double the next best streak (Lazio's 15).

- This term, Cristiano Ronaldo equalled the record of 11 consecutive goalscoring appearances in a single Serie A season. He has also already levelled his haul of goals from 2018-19 despite making nine fewer appearances, averaging 0.95 goals per game compared to 0.68 last season.

- Among the players who made their debut in the three-points era, Ronaldo was the fastest to reach 42 goals (52 appearances) – before him the record was 58 games played (Vincenzo Montella, Andriy Shevchenko and Brazil great Ronaldo).

LAZIO

- Lazio are unbeaten in their previous 21 league games (W17 D4), already an all-time Serie A record for the club. Six of the seven previous teams with streaks as long as that in a single season went on to win the Scudetto (the only exception was Roma in 2009-10).

- Ciro Immobile has 27 goals in 26 games in 2019-20. Only Antonio Valentin Angelillo (29) in has managed more after 26 matchdays.

INTER

- Antonio Conte is the first Inter coach to see his team score in each of his first 19 games in all competitions.

- Inter have won nine of their 13 Serie A away games this season (D2 L2): only in the 2006-07 campaign have the Nerazzurri won more (11).

- Romelu Lukaku is one of three players to have scored at least 17 Serie A goals in their first 25 games of a debut season with Inter, emulating Giuseppe Meazza (1929-30) and Stefano Nyers (1948-49).

ATALANTA

- Atalanta's 70 goals in this Serie A campaign already represents their second-best haul in a single season (77 in 2018-19).

- No team has scored as many as 70 goals in the first 25 matches of a single Serie A season since 1959, when Fiorentina netted 79.

- Three Atalanta players are into double-figures in terms of goals in this season: Josip Ilicic, Luis Muriel and Duvan Zapata. Only in 1949-50 and 1951-52 have the club had as many players reach 10 goals.

MILAN

- Since Stefano Pioli joined Milan, they have kept the most clean sheets in Serie A (seven).

- Milan have increased their winning percentage since the turn of the year across Serie A and the Coppa Italia. It was 35 per cent in 2019, rising to 50 per cent in the new year – they also increased their goals per game from 0.9 to 1.7.

- Since his first spell at Milan (which began in August 2010), Zlatan Ibrahimovic has scored 60 goals for the Rossoneri in all competitions, more than any other player with the club in the period.

Dejan Kulusevski has revealed he chose Juventus over Inter as he was "in doubt" about working under Antonio Conte.

The Sweden international agreed to sign for the Serie A champions from Atalanta in January, penning a four-and-a-half-year deal before being loaned back to Parma.

As well as relishing the prospect of lining up alongside the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Paulo Dybala, Kulusevski is also eager to learn from Juve boss Maurizio Sarri.

And the midfielder drew a direct comparison with Inter coach Conte, who he was not so sure about.

"[Sarri] was nice. He put me at ease. I knew his Chelsea and his style of play," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"That's also why I chose to play for the Bianconeri. 

"With Conte, the movements are different, the tactical set-up. That was why I was in doubt."

Reflecting on his arrival at Allianz Stadium, Kulusevski was delighted to be welcomed by Ronaldo among several of his new team-mates.

"What a thrill that day at the stadium, a unique atmosphere," the 20-year-old said. "And CR7 said to me: 'Welcome Dejan, how are you?'

"[Gianluigi] Buffon and [Giorgio] Chiellini were nice to me too. An immense joy for a boy who had only seen them on TV.

"I hope we go far in every competition and above all that we will win the Champions League."

With Italian football still in a coronavirus-enforced shutdown, Kulusevski will not be able to make his debut until the new season begins but he is looking forward to the challenge.

"I'm on the right track, I feel stronger every day and ready to face new challenges," he said. "I'm attracted to the idea of testing myself against the best.

"I go there to learn; I can't wait to link up with Dybala and his magical left foot.

"In any case, I now know how to play in multiple positions, and I plan to claim my place in Turin too."

Antonio Conte has been impressed with Frank Lampard's maiden season in charge of Chelsea and believes the former England international can become one of the best managers in the world.

Lampard took over at Stamford Bridge after Maurizio Sarri's departure to take charge of Juventus.

Conte led Chelsea for two seasons preceding his compatriot Sarri, winning the Premier League in 2016-17 and bidding farewell with an FA Cup triumph a year later.

Inconsistent home form has undermined Lampard to an extent, but he won plaudits for successfully blooding youngsters such as Tammy Abraham and Mason Mount and had the Blues sitting fourth in England's top flight before the coronavirus pandemic brought a halt to proceedings in March.

"I think he is doing a really good job, Frank," Conte, now head coach at Inter, told Sky Sports.

"This is his second experience [as a manager] after Derby County and to manage a top team is not easy.

"I think he has the skills, the ability to become one of the best managers in the world. He has to continue to work in this way and I wish him the best for the future."

N'Golo Kante was one of the stars of Conte's Chelsea team – a dominant presence in holding midfield as the Italian's finely honed 3-4-3 cut a swathe through English football.

Sarri deployed the France international in more of a roving role, while his adaptability has again been on show under Lampard.

"In my opinion, he can play in every position in the midfield," Conte said.

"We are talking about an amazing player, a top player. He is fantastic with or without the ball and, when you have N'Golo in your team, you can think that you are playing with one player more.

"He is one of the best players I have had in my career as a coach."

John Terry's professionalism was a huge help to Antonio Conte in his first season at Chelsea even as the Italian was easing the Blues legend out of the first-team picture.

Conte steered Chelsea to Premier League glory during his maiden campaign at Stamford Bridge, with Michy Batshuayi's late winner at West Brom sealing the triumph three years ago to the day on Tuesday.

It was the fifth and final top-flight title Terry won with Chelsea, though his playing time in the 2016-17 campaign was heavily diminished.

The former England captain made just six starts and nine total appearances in the Premier League, but Conte said Terry was vital for keeping standards high.

"It was a great privilege for me to be the coach of a Chelsea legend like John Terry," Conte told Sky Sports.

"We are talking about a top man, a really good man and then a top player. He helped me a lot in my first season in and out of the pitch.

"He was very important in the training ground, during the sessions to keep the concentration standards high."

Terry's last game, a 5-1 hammering of Sunderland, saw him substituted after 26 minutes – a nod to his shirt number – to a rousing reception from the home fans.

Conte explained: "He decided he wanted this because 26 was his squad number and for me it was a pleasure to give him this opportunity.

"I will never be able to thank him enough. He was very important for me and our team."

Inter are capable of signing Barcelona captain Lionel Messi thanks to vice-president Javier Zanetti, according to former assistant coach Jose Morais.

Messi has been linked to Inter since ex-president Massimo Moratti said the six-time Ballon d'Or winner joining the Serie A club was not a "forbidden dream".

Barca superstar Messi is contracted to the LaLiga champions until 2021 but his future is far from certain at Camp Nou, where he has clashed with board members this season.

Morais knows Inter better than most, having served as Jose Mourinho's assistant during the Nerazzurri's treble-winning season in 2009-10.

Asked about the possibility of Messi swapping Barca for Inter, Morais – now head coach of K. League champions Jeonbuk Motors – highlighted the influence of the Argentina international's countryman Zanetti.

"You know what, I think it's possible," Morais, who led Jeonbuk to glory last season, told Stats Perform. "You know the reason why? Because they have Zanetti. Zanetti is like a tractor factor for Argentinian players.

"I think he is capable of attracting a player like Messi if he thinks about a different challenge. I think for an Argentinian player, it's almost to have a feeling like I'm going home, I'm going to Inter.

"My feeling is that Inter are welcoming in a special way and for Argentinian players, probably because of the presence of Zanetti. All of the Argentinians joining Inter are extraordinary players, they brought success to the club. I believe Messi can be one of these players."

While the possibility of Messi gracing the blue half of San Siro has excited fans, the prospect of star forward Lautaro Martinez leaving has dominated headlines.

Martinez has been heavily linked with Barca, who are reportedly determined to sign Messi's international compatriot as a long-term replacement for veteran Luis Suarez.

Also linked to Spanish giants Real Madrid and Premier League powerhouse Manchester City, Martinez had scored 16 goals in 31 games across all competitions before the coronavirus pandemic brought sport to a standstill.

Morais said: "I remember players myself, at certain moments of a career there was a player who decided to go to Barcelona because he thought maybe I could win the Champions League. He was a fantastic player like Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He went to Barca. I believe that it can happen with any other player. But I think as a professional if you want to have a career, Inter are definitely a fantastic club to stay and make a career.

"I don't know what's going on in the head of a player, if a club like Madrid or Barca, with the impact they have, if it is possible to buy a player from Inter – it's possible. I don't know the conditions of the contract, but it can make the deal possible or not possible. If we speak about Neymar, he wants to leave from Paris Saint-Germain but the price is just too high for clubs to pay. It is not easy to leave.

"If the coronavirus situation will help the player, it's about the contract. I believe the situation in Spain is not too different from Italy at the moment. I don't think this will be a factor for the player to say I will leave Italy to go to Spain. It will be about the vision of his future and goals he has in his career. I hope for Inter they will keep Lautaro Martinez because he makes a difference. You need these kinds of players to win the league."

Morais enjoyed great success alongside Mourinho at Inter, winning the Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia in 2009-10 but the Italian club have struggled to reach those lofty heights since the Portuguese's departure.

However, Inter – with Steven Zhang and Suning Holdings Group in charge – have made progress, luring former Juventus and Chelsea boss Antonio Conte to Milan, while investing heavily in the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Christian Eriksen, Nicolo Barella, Stefano Sensi, Diego Godin and Ashley Young.

Inter made a fast start to 2019-20 but fell away prior to the COVID-19 crisis, sitting third and nine points adrift of defending champions Juve at the time of Serie A's postponement in March.

"I believe in the club, in the people who are working there. In Italy, I'm Interista. As Interista, there is only one way to think – it's to believe that the club can, in any circumstance, be a competitor for the title," the 54-year-old Morais added.

"With the investment this season, it's possible. It's important to have stability, in terms of organisation, to succeed in the next years. Conte is a good coach. He has been winning titles. He did what he did with Juventus and Chelsea, and hopefully for Inter, he will also make them champions. This is my wish because I want the best for Inter in Italy."

Inter head coach Antonio Conte would not last a full season as Real Madrid boss, according to Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa.

Conte and Costa worked together at Premier League giants Chelsea before the latter left Stamford Bridge for Atletico following a row with the Italian coach at the end of 2016-17.

Costa was followed out of Chelsea by Conte 12 months later – the former Juventus coach joining Inter at the start of 2019-20 after a year away from football.

Asked about Conte, striker Costa told ESPN Brasil: "We [Conte and I] had problems off the pitch, but I think he is a really good manager.

"I have no hard feelings towards Conte. But to be a top, top manager, he needs to change the human side of his management. He is very suspicious. At a like, say, Real Madrid, he would never last a season."

Costa was born in Brazil and made two appearances for the Selecao before opting to represent Spain in 2013.

The 31-year-old has since earned 24 caps for Spain, representing La Roja at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

"After the friendly against Russia, he [former Brazil head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari] said he would call me up again because I hadn't played many minutes," Costa said as he reflected on his decision to switch countries. "I think it was just to get in my head.

"I remember several forwards were injured but Scolari would not select me. I stayed quiet, but wasn't selected for the Confederations Cup. The possibility of Spain emerged and I accepted.

"How could I say no? Suddenly, they started saying Scolari wanted me. Well, he never called me once. How could it be that he wanted me? I then saw it written that I had ruined the dreams of millions of Brazilians.

"Why not say that he didn't look for me? Then it's simple."

Romelu Lukaku was "really close" to joining Juventus last year, but the chance to work with Antonio Conte proved pivotal in his decision to sign for Inter.

The Belgium international ended a mixed two-year spell with Manchester United by joining Inter for a reported €80million (£74m) fee in August 2019.

Lukaku has excelled in his debut campaign in Italy, scoring 23 goals in 35 outings in all competitions.

However, the 26-year-old has revealed he almost joined one of Inter's fiercest rivals.

"I was close, really close [to joining Juve], but my mind was always set on Inter and the manager," Lukaku said in an interview on Ian Wright's YouTube channel.

"As a kid I looked up to Adriano, Ronaldo and [Christian] Vieri. 

"Obviously when Inter came – and the manager Conte wanted me at Chelsea and Juve as well – I wanted to go there and see what it was like, keep my head down and work."

Lukaku has already bettered his goals tally from the whole of his final season at United, where he fell out of favour under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

"One bad year can happen to everybody, and I was done [at United]," Lukaku, who believes he made the right decision in leaving Old Trafford, added. "It was a difficult situation.

"I had to make a decision over going somewhere where I can learn other aspects of my game and work with somebody that wanted me as well.

"Ole wanted me to stay but I told him it 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."

United have steadily improved in Solskjaer's first full campaign in charge following the January signings of Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo, the latter arriving on an initial loan.

"They are going the right way because they are bringing in the right players," Lukaku said. "Ole is doing a good job and the results are good. 

"I wish them nothing but the best. As a club they gave me a platform that I had never seen in my life."

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