Arsenal appear to be spiralling into a deeper mess as the days pass.

Just over a week on from sacking Unai Emery, the Gunners now reportedly have doubts over how long Freddie Ljungberg should be left in charge.

Misjudging the situation could have serious ramifications for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's future.

 

TOP STORY – DOUBTS EMERGE OVER LJUNGBERG

Arsenal fear interim boss Ljungberg's lack of managerial experience will force them to make a full-time appointment before the end of the season, reports The Mirror.

Gunners chiefs seemed set to back the Swede when Emery was moved aside but a draw with Norwich City at Carrow Road and the 2-1 loss to Brighton and Hove Albion in midweek have cast doubt over his capabilities.

Action could be taken sooner rather than later as the club mull over a list of potential targets, particularly as there are "growing concerns" about star striker Aubameyang .

The 30-year-old has reportedly stalled on contract talks and the lack of clarity over the head coaching position could end with Arsenal being forced to sell one of their strongest assets.

 

ROUND-UP

- Chelsea have Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha and Leicester City left-back Ben Chilwell in their sights after their transfer ban was reduced on Friday, reports The Athletic.

- Juventus are considering a move for either Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic or Leandro Paredes of Paris Saint-Germain, claims Corriere Torino.

- Inter's interest in Arturo Vidal could aid Barca's bid to sign Lautaro Martinez from the Serie A side, according to Mundo Deportivo.

- Steven Gerrard is on the verge of agreeing a new deal with Rangers that will see him remain as manager until 2024, says The Sun.

- Two Eredivisie stars could be headed for Portugal, reports A Bola. Belgian forward Cyriel Dessers of Heracles Almelo and exciting AZ prospect Myron Boadu are said to be in the sights of Primeira Liga heavyweights Sporting CP .

Lautaro Martinez is delighted to be delivering success for Inter and says the arrivals of Antonio Conte, Romelu Lukaku and a new system have inspired his outstanding form.

Argentina international Martinez has scored 13 goals in 19 games across all competitions for the Nerazzurri this season, already trumping his tally of nine strikes in his debut 2018-19 campaign.

The 22-year-old's goals have fired Inter to the top of Serie A, a point clear of Juventus after 14 matches.

Martinez came into the campaign full of confidence after netting twice at the Copa America, yet he suggests life back at Inter would still have been tough had Luciano Spalletti remained at the helm, preferring a formation with a lone striker.

Instead, Spalletti and captain Mauro Icardi departed, seeing new coach Conte install a 3-5-2 line-up that brings the best out of both Martinez and Lukaku, who has 11 goals in 18 games.

"Last year, I played in a team with a coach who played with only one striker in attack," Martinez told Sky Sport Italia.

"I knew that in front of me there was the captain, Icardi, the most important player for Inter, and obviously it was very complicated for me to play.

"I always trained to the maximum, but I knew it was like that. I had the chance to play a few minutes but not like I would play now.

"This year, I had a great Copa America, then I met Conte, who works at high intensity and treats all players in the same way. This makes everyone train to the maximum.

"Then there is Romelu, who is a great person on and off the pitch. We are working hard to follow the coach's instructions and take Inter to the top."

Martinez has been linked with Barcelona and Manchester City in recent weeks but described his happiness at San Siro.

"Inter is my home. That's something very important for me," he said.

"I try to work hard and prove with humility on the pitch that I deserve to wear this shirt. I want to bring as much joy as possible to the Nerazzurri fans and my family."

Lautaro Martinez has been linked with a move from Inter to Barcelona but CEO Giuseppe Marotta is not concerned by the transfer speculation.

Martinez scored a first-half double in Inter's 2-1 win over SPAL on Sunday to fire his side to the top of Serie A and take his goals tally for the season to 13 in all competitions.

The 22-year-old's impressive start to his second campaign in San Siro has seen him emerge as a rumoured target for LaLiga champions Barcelona in recent weeks, as they look to identify a long-term heir for the aging Luis Suarez.

Despite Martinez's agent talking up a potential switch to Barca in the past, Marotta is not concerned by the rumours surrounding the Argentina international.


"His contract situation is not compromising," Marotta said at Monday's Serie A assembly. "He is a good boy and is grateful to Inter, so it does not cause a discomfort.

"Inter and Suning [the club's ownership group] aim to grow and you can't do that by giving up your best players. But the market is unpredictable - there is always the will of the player to choose their own destiny. 

"This is not the time to talk about a possible transfer or contract renewal. Lautaro knows very well the trust we have for him."

Eight of Martinez's goals this term have come in Serie A, while strike partner Romelu Lukaku has scored 10 times in the Italian top flight since arriving from Manchester United.

Marotta has hailed the duo's chemistry in attack, with Inter not previously boasting two players with eight or more goals at this stage of the campaign since 2001-02.

"There is the right chemistry between them," he said. "Antonio Conte, a proven winner, knows how to get the best out of them. 

"They are friends off the field and have a great harmony on the pitch."

Inter spent big during the close season to bolster their squad, but Marotta has not ruled out further incoming activity when the transfer window reopens next month.

"We will evaluate the squad because we need to plan for certain situations, and we are lacking in certain areas," he said. 

"At the same time we have to bear in mind what this group has achieved with the guidance of Conte. We look at the window with optimism, but also with realism."

Antonio Conte is proud of his Inter side after the Nerazzurri moved top of Serie A thanks to a hard-earned 2-1 win over struggling SPAL.

Two first-half goals from Lautaro Martinez put Inter in control at San Siro on Sunday, although Mattia Valoti's strike sparked a much-improved display from SPAL after the break.

Martinez squandered two chances to complete his hat-trick but Inter were not made to pay for their forward's profligacy as they took advantage of Juventus' earlier slip up against Sassuolo.

And Conte, who has erred on the side of caution whenever pressed on Inter's title chances so far this season, is delighted by how they have progressed under his leadership.

“We've been working since day one to make an impact and annoy the other teams," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"Being back on top of the table after 14 rounds makes us proud, because we know the journey we've been through to get here.

"At the same time, it should give us positive enthusiasm, push us to do even better and control the game without suffering to the end the way we did, because in those circumstances a cross or deflected shot can change everything.

"We were determined and knew Juventus had dropped points, so we were prepared to make the most of the situation.

"We deserved to beat SPAL and it's important to remember we are focused on our own growth process, which is in full swing, so we're not trying to compare ourselves with others."

Despite Martinez's frustrations at not adding to his goal tally in the second half, Conte hailed the all-round display of the forward, who has scored 13 times in all competitions so far this season.

"Lautaro – we call him Lauty – lives for goals, but I was very clear with him that the top strikers are the ones who work for the team," Conte said.

"The ones who track back in defence and seek each other out. Romelu Lukaku, for instance, didn't score today, but he was constantly involved."

Lautaro Martinez starred for Inter as his double helped Antonio Conte's side to a 2-1 victory over SPAL and moved the Nerazzurri top of Serie A.

With Juventus having drawn with Sassuolo in Sunday's early fixture, Inter knew a win at San Siro would be enough to leapfrog Maurizio Sarri's men, and they had too much for a struggling SPAL side who are now winless in seven matches.

Martinez spearheaded Inter's attack – picking out the bottom-left corner of Etrit Berisha's goal with supreme accuracy in the 16th minute before doubling his tally with a well-placed header prior to half-time.

Mattia Valoti struck to spark a rejuvenated SPAL performance after the break, yet – despite Martinez squandering two golden chances to round off a hat-trick – Inter held firm to claim top spot.

Romelu Lukaku broke through SPAL's line in the 11th minute, though Berisha did well to rush out and close the angle.

Berisha was beaten five minutes later, however – Martinez gliding forward before directing a low finish across SPAL's goalkeeper.

Lukaku and Marcelo Brozovic both went close as Inter kept up the pressure, but the hosts had their second four minutes before the break, Martinez guiding home Antonio Candreva's excellent first-time cross.

Against the run of play, SPAL pulled themselves back into contention early in the second half as Valoti carved through Inter's defence and slotted in off the left-hand upright.

Alessandro Murgia might have made it 2-2 had he connected well with a looped cross, while Martinez saw a close-range header saved by Berisha before he then failed to beat the goalkeeper when one-on-one soon after.

Matias Vecino's close-range miss buoyed SPAL's resolve, but Andrea Petagna failed to take advantage when the visitors' next chance came his way, while Jasmin Kurtic went close with a rasping long-range strike as Inter held onto the points.
 

What does it mean? Nerazzurri make most of Juventus off-day

Juve have long dominated Serie A, but in the form of Conte's Inter, the Old Lady seem to have serious title rivals this season.

Inter – now top by one point – have won 12 of their opening 14 Serie A matches in a season for the first time, while they have also become the fifth side to find the net in each of their first 14 league matches of a campaign in the 21st century, after Juve, Milan, Fiorentina and Roma.

In-form Martinez strikes early... again

Martinez needed no second invitation to open the scoring, though it is perhaps no surprise given his record of scoring early goals in Serie A this season. Overall, six of the striker's eight league strikes have come in drilling in the opening 30 minutes.

 

Sluggish second-half start a cause for concern

Inter were in cruise control heading into the break, but a stuttering start to the second half enabled SPAL to wrest their way back into the contest and, had the visitors possessed more quality in attack, Conte's team could easily have been made to pay.

What's next?

Inter welcome Roma to San Siro on Friday in Serie A, while SPAL's next outing comes against Lecce in the Coppa Italia on Wednesday.

Antonio Conte says Inter's run of just one defeat in nine matches has led to a "feel-good factor" at San Siro but he has warned his players against complacency ahead of their clash with struggling SPAL.

Inter are second in Serie A, one point behind leaders Juventus, as they prepare to face 19th-placed SPAL on Sunday, and Conte was in ebullient mood in his pre-match press conference.

The Nerazzurri returned to form in the Champions League by beating Slavia Prague 3-1 on Wednesday and victory at home against SPAL would extend Inter's Serie A winning streak to five matches.

Conte was asked how he intends to maintain his side's strong form in order to keep Inter's title challenge on course, and he called for everyone at the club to keep their feet on the ground.

"In the league and in Europe we are doing very well," Conte told reporters. "In Europe we have played with real pride. Even when we lost we gave a good performance.

"We have always played every game on level terms. In Europe the situation is in our hands again. That is very encouraging.

"I am very optimistic and pleased with the feel-good factor. However, we cannot get carried away and must stay grounded. We need to make sure we are realistic.

"We have lots of confidence and that should spur us on. Let's beat SPAL and keep going. I want to see the same spirit and desire. I want us to be hungry."

Martinez has already matched his league goal tally from last season by scoring six this term and Lukaku has endeared himself to Inter fans with 10 goals in 13 league appearances since his £75million transfer from Manchester United.

"Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku aren't the same strikers who started the season," said Conte.

"They are both atypical modern strikers, as they can be a centre-forward or a support striker, they work hard for their team-mates and are really developing an understanding with each other.

"They have grown a lot. They have come a long way since the start of the season. They have a good understanding. They are working very well and very hard.

"The goals are coming which is important. But the whole team play their part. I am attentive at both ends of the pitch. However, there is still lots of work to do."

Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta said it is unlikely Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa will return to Milan as the Serie A club weigh up offers following his stellar loan spell with Flamengo.

Gabigol has made a huge impact at Flamengo, where his goals helped the Brazilian giants to Copa Libertadores and Campeonato Brasileiro glory this season.

After struggling at Inter following his 2016 arrival, star striker Gabigol was initially loaned to Benfica before returning to his native Brazil.

Since moving back to South America on loan, Gabigol has scored 67 goals across all competitions with Santos and Flamengo, who are yet to agree terms on a permanent deal for the 23-year-old following his 40 goals for the Rio de Janeiro-based outfit.

Amid links to Premier League duo West Ham and Everton, and reports he could be used in a deal to bring Fiorentina's Federico Chiesa to Inter, Marotta told Sky Sport Italia: "We see Gabigol the same way as Lautaro [Martinez], a player who is growing year by year.

"His loan ends in December, after which we'll carefully evaluate what to do with him.

"It's unlikely he'll be part of our project, but he has several proposals and we'll evaluate it all carefully along with the player."

Marotta heaped praise on star forward Martinez, who is enjoying a fine campaign amid reported interest from LaLiga champions Barcelona and Premier League giants Manchester United.

Martinez took his season tally to 11 with his double in Wednesday's 3-1 Champions League victory at Slavia Prague.

Speaking beforehand, Marotta said: "Lautaro has become increasingly confident and mature, especially for a 22-year-old, so he really has a great career ahead of him."

Inter head coach Antonio Conte believes a capacity San Siro crowd can roar his side into the Champions League knockout phase after a thrilling late win over Slavia Prague.

Conte's men clinched a 3-1 win over Slavia on Wednesday to move up to second in Group F, ahead of third-placed Borussia Dortmund on head-to-head record.

Two goals from Lautaro Martinez and one from Romelu Lukaku secured the points for Inter, although they had to wait until late the final nine minutes of the game to seal the win.

Inter know victory over Barcelona – who have already qualified as group winners – in their final fixture on December 10, on home turf, will book their place in the last 16.

Conte told Sky Sport Italia: "The only way to stay alive and give a sense to the final fixture with Barcelona was to win and we did it. 

"We're pleased, as we wanted to be alive and kicking to the final game and that's the situation. Our fate is in our hands.

"Now it's going to be a tough match, but we can count on 70,000 people who will push us on at San Siro. We were much more of a team against Slavia."

Conte felt the blossoming strike partnership between Martinez and Lukaku was instrumental in the victory but believes the pair have not yet shown their full potential.

He added: "The strikers were decisive and I am very happy for them. They fought it out physically with the Slavia players, which they had struggled to do last time.

"We are talking about two players who are not yet complete. Lukaku has a lot of potential, he still needs to be encouraged. Lautaro is only 22 years old. 

"But after four months we see the difference. Players in general are stronger, they are growing clearly."

Martinez's brace took his tally to five goals in this season's Champions League as he scored for the fourth game in succession, while Lukaku's strike was his first in the competition for Inter.

Although he is leading the European goalscoring charts Martinez says neither he nor Lukaku are concerned with individual totals.

"I always say it doesn't matter who scores, as long as the team gets the goal and wins," he said.

"We work every day to help create that unity off the field and on it. Romelu is a great guy and we really get along, we both care more about the team than our own goals.

"We made a lot of progress since the Borussia Dortmund game, where we dominated the first half and fell away. 

"We're proving that we can have our say in this Champions League and believe we can reach the Round of 16.”

Barcelona are preparing for next season and they have several players on their wish list.

The LaLiga leaders are enjoying a decent campaign in 2019-20, but they already have one eye on 2020-2021.

Inter's Lautaro Martinez, Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich and Fiorentina's Nikola Milenkovic are reportedly their main targets.

 

TOP STORY – BARCELONA TARGET MARTINEZ, KIMMICH AND MILENKOVIC

Martinez, Kimmich and Milenkovic are Barcelona's main targets ahead of 2020-21, according to AS.

If they miss out on Kimmich, they will look to RB Leipzig's Lukas Klostermann, the report says.

Meanwhile, Chelsea defender Andreas Christensen is another option, while Arsenal's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is a target if they cannot land Martinez.

ROUND-UP

- Mauricio Pochettino could be set for a quick return to management. Bayern Munich want to hold talks with the former Tottenham manager, according to The Telegraph.

- Could the impact of Jose Mourinho be felt at Tottenham already? Toby Alderweireld, who is out of contract at the end of the season, could stay at Spurs after Mourinho's arrival, The Telegraph also reports.

- Roma could extend Lorenzo Pellegrini's contract, but several clubs are interested in the midfielder. Manchester United, Tottenham, Juventus, AC Milan and Inter have shown some interest in Pellegrini, according to CalcioMercato.

- Marko Pjaca has failed to have an impact since his arrival at Juventus in 2016. CalcioMercato reports the Croatian attacker, who has already been on loan at Schalke and Fiorentina since his arrival in Turin, could be set for another spell away from Juve in January.

- Chelsea have a target in January if their transfer ban is overturned. The Premier League giants have been monitoring CSKA Moscow striker Fedor Chalov, according to Sky Sports. The 21-year-old scored 15 Russian Premier League goals last season and has five in 16 games in 2019-20.

Barcelona will always be interested in Neymar but it is financially difficult to re-sign him, the club's sporting director Eric Abidal has admitted.

Neymar attempted to secure a move back to Camp Nou in the close season, two years after leaving for Paris Saint-Germain in a deal that made him the most expensive player in history.

LaLiga champions Barca held talks with PSG but were unable to meet the Ligue 1 side's demands.

Lionel Messi suggested some at the Catalan club did not want Neymar to return, though it appears he will remain a target.

"A top player, who has a Barca philosophy and who is performing at a high level, will always be an option," Abidal told Mundo Deportivo.

"We can make decisions on the sporting level but the whole financial issue, there are things that you can do and others you cannot. The future will tell us.

"I will not say it would be option number one, because the season is very long, but clearly it can be an option."

Barca reignited their interest in Neymar amid a desire to find a long-term successor to ageing striker Luis Suarez.

The search is said to have led them to highly rated Inter forward Lautaro Martinez.

Asked about the 22-year-old, Abidal said: "He is a complete player. I think he is performing at a great level. He is a player we know.

"There are other players who also have a lot of quality... but I don't pay much attention to the player who plays every weekend, I look at others."

Barca did boost their attacking options with the addition of Antoine Griezmann in July and Abidal said Suarez had been briefed on the club's intentions to pursue another competitor for his starting spot.

"I am transparent with the players," the Frenchman said. "Luis can tell you, because last year I already told him that it was going to be like that, that we were going to look for an offensive player.

"He accepted it because he wants the best for the team. Today, I can tell you that there is no priority. The planning will always be done, no matter the position on the field, the only change will be the decision."

Inter have a fight on their hands to retain the services of star forward Lautaro Martinez.

Martinez has been heavily linked to LaLiga champions Barcelona as they search for Luis Suarez's long-term replacement.

But Manchester City and United are both reportedly interested in the Argentina international.

 

TOP STORY – CITY & UNITED TARGET MARTINEZ

Manchester City and Premier League neighbours United want to sign Inter star Martinez, according to The Mirror.

Martinez – who is only in his second season in Milan after joining from Racing Club in 2018 – has flourished this term with eight goals across all competitions for Antonio Conte's Inter.

LaLiga champions Barcelona have been linked, while the two Manchester clubs are also reportedly targeting the 22-year-old forward.

 

ROUND-UP

- Unhappy at Barcelona, Ivan Rakitic could remain in LaLiga. The Croatia international has attracted interest from the likes of Inter, United and Paris Saint-Germain in his pursuit of more game time. However, Movistar+ claims Atletico Madrid are willing to meet Barca's €40million valuation of Rakitic. Marca adds that Atletico do not plan to replace Diego Costa due to salary constraints.

- The Mirror says Arsenal scouted Leicester City defender Caglar Soyuncu during Turkey's Euro 2020 qualifier against Iceland on Thursday. Soyuncu moved to Leicester from Freiburg in 2018 and the 23-year-old has stepped up to fill the void left by Harry Maguire, who joined United in a world-record deal.

- Zlatan Ibrahimovic out and Edinson Cavani in for LA Galaxy? According to Gianluca Di Marzio, MLS side the Galaxy are targeting Paris Saint-Germain's Cavani following Ibrahimovic's exit. The Uruguay forward is out of contract at the end of the season and has been linked to David Beckham's Inter Miami franchise, who will open their inaugural season against the Galaxy next year.

Inter will need to fork out €30m if they want to sign Udinese's Rodrigo de Paul in January, reports Calciomercato. The Express also reports that Inter are ready to offer out-of-favour Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud an 18-month contract. Conte is determined to add depth up front, with Martinez and Romelu Lukaku leading the way in the absence of injured loanee Alexis Sanchez.

- Corriere dello Sport claims Roma have joined the chase for Everton forward Moise Kean. The 19-year-old has struggled since moving to the Premier League from Juventus, and the likes of Sampdoria and AC Milan are lining up to bring the teenager back to Serie A on loan.

Lautaro Martinez blasted Inter for their "immaturity" in the second half of their 3-2 Champions League defeat to Borussia Dortmund.

The striker opened the scoring after five minutes at Signal Iduna Park and played a key role as Matias Vecino made it 2-0 shortly before half-time.

Inter, who beat Dortmund 2-0 in Milan two weeks ago, then collapsed in the second 45 minutes, with two goals from Achraf Hakimi either side of a Julian Brandt strike condemning them to defeat.

The result leaves Inter four points behind Group F leaders Barcelona, a team they host on matchday six, and three adrift of second-placed Dortmund.

Martinez is refusing to give up on their hopes of reaching the last 16 but was far from happy with the way the Nerazzurri allowed the match to get away from them.

"We did well in the first half, but we were a completely different team in the second. We're disappointed because we showed a bit of immaturity in the second half," he told Sky Sport Italia.

"There were mistakes in concentration - these are things that cannot happen, conceding three goals in one half.

"We were missing a bit of maturity in the second half. We have to continue doing well. Hope is not lost."

Vecino conceded Inter defended too deep and did not keep possession well enough in the second half when Dortmund began to increase the pressure.

"It hurts. It's a bad defeat after that good first half," the midfielder said. "We defended too deep in the second half and struggled to keep the ball well.

"Dortmund found courage and enthusiasm after their first goal and everything became very complicated for us. However, there are two more games and we will definitely give it a try."

Achraf Hakimi scored twice as Borussia Dortmund came from 2-0 down to beat Inter 3-2 and give themselves a major boost in the Champions League.

Lautaro Martinez and Matias Vecino had put the visitors in the driving seat at Signal Iduna Park, two weeks on from their 2-0 defeat of Lucien Favre's side in Milan.

Dortmund came roaring back in the second half, though, with Achraf netting his double either side of a Julian Brandt strike to secure what could prove to be a valuable victory.

Martinez became the first Inter player to score in three consecutive Champions League appearances since Samuel Eto'o in 2010 when he raced down the right, cut back into the box past the covering defence and side-footed high beyond Roman Burki.

It was a deserved lead for the visitors, who were keeping Dortmund restricted to half-chances, with Mario Gotze denied by Samir Handanovic from the best of their early openings.

After 40 minutes it was 2-0 thanks to a flowing counter-attack. Marcelo Brozovic showed great footwork, Martinez turned and spread the ball out to Antonio Candreva, and his cut-back was swept into the net by the arriving Vecino.

Dortmund started the second half brightly and got a goal back when Achraf scuffed the ball into the left-hand corner after being teed up by Gotze.

Pressure was building on Inter and they gifted Dortmund their equaliser 13 minutes later, making a mess of a throw-in near their own box to allow Brandt to steal in and slot past Handanovic.

The comeback was completed 13 minutes from time, when Achraf raced into the box from the right wing to dispatch Jadon Sancho's pass beneath Handanovic.

 

What does it mean? Barcelona and Dortmund in pole position to progress

Barcelona, who were held by Slavia Prague earlier at Camp Nou, remain top of Group F and four points clear of Dortmund.

Antonio Conte's side will hope for a favour from Barca against Dortmund on matchday five to increase their chances of going through.

Achraf provides surprise killer touch

Dortmund have lacked a cutting edge in recent weeks, but Achraf showed his attacking team-mates how it should be done with two crucial goals, his second a particularly precise finish.

Conte cannot react in time

The drop-off in Inter's second-half performance was peculiar and Conte seemed unable to arrest it with substitutions or tactical changes. Champions League success remains hard to come by for him.

What's next?

Dortmund head to Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga on Saturday, while Inter host Hellas Verona in Serie A.

Inter CEO Giuseppe Marotta played down speculation linking star forward Lautaro Martinez to Barcelona and Manchester United.

Martinez's fine start to the season has seen him emerge as a target for LaLiga champions Barca and struggling Premier League giants United.

The 22-year-old Argentina international, whose agent has talked up interest from Barca in the past, has scored seven goals this term.

Asked about rumours that Barca and United are poised to activate Martinez's €111million release clause, Marotta told Sky Sport Italia: "This is all media talk.

"Our players are happy to be with us and a player must express its desire to leave if he wants to go. We don't tend to sell important players, Inter are a very important club.

"Of course, part of this job is to deal with situations as they present themselves."

Martinez, who arrived from Racing Club in 2018-19, has scored five Serie A goals this term and seven across all competitions for Antonio Conte's Inter.

Inter defeated Bologna 2-1 on Saturday to stay within a point of defending champions Juventus after 11 games.

Antonio Conte is not concerned about speculation linking Lautaro Martinez with Barcelona and has challenged the Inter forward to take his game to the next level.

Reports in Spain have suggested Barcelona are eyeing the Argentina international as a long-term replacement for Luis Suarez, while Manchester United are also rumoured to be interested in the player.

Martinez scored for Inter in their 2-1 Champions League loss at Camp Nou last month and already has seven goals in all competitions this term, striking up an excellent partnership with Romelu Lukaku.

Yet despite the speculation, Conte has told the 22-year-old to continue working hard if he wants to maximise his obvious potential.

"We look to the present to build the future," Conte said at his pre-match news conference ahead of Saturday's trip to Bologna.

"He is working well and has made good progress. He can still make further progress because he is still only 22 years old.

"He has to continue to work hard. Much of the transfer talk comes from that and it cannot be seen as a problem at this moment - there are bigger concerns.

"He must try to be more selfish when he has a chance to score. It's all part of his growth process. I want to improve all of my players.

While Martinez has thrived under the coaching of Conte, team-mate Valentino Lazaro has struggled since arriving from Hertha Berlin in a €22million deal during the close season.

Amid talk that Inter are looking to bring in a new right-sided player, Conte has vowed to give the Austria international a chance to justify his price tag.

"He has been used seven times this season and for his national side he is very promising," he said. "At Hertha there is less pressure than he has found in Milan. 

"He is working hard and we will give him the opportunities to start games. It was a big investment for him."

Inter have won eight of their opening 10 league matches - equalling their best Serie A return at this stage - but are still one point behind champions Juventus.

The Bianconeri's period of dominance started with Conte at the helm, but the Italian coach has played down comparisons between his first seasons at Juve and his early work at Inter.

"There is an important difference - we did not have cup competitions in the first year at Juve," he said. "We could dedicate ourselves, heart and soul, to the league. We played in the league, and then the league again.

"It is not the same thing here - the expenditure is very high. One thing that I am sure of, here we also have to play a thousand miles per hour. If we take our foot off the accelerator, it will be difficult to win games.

"We must sweat for the victory. That is beyond doubt and must be clear to all the players."

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