Inter striker Romelu Lukaku does not intend to leave a response to racism in football to the authorities, citing players' protests in the Eredivisie as an example for Serie A stars.

A number of incidents of racist abuse in stadiums have marred Italian football in recent seasons, with Lukaku, Mario Balotelli and Miralem Pjanic among the targets.

Lukaku has repeatedly been outspoken on the issue, and the Belgium international is keen for players to lead a riposte to discrimination.

Eredivisie matches were paused for a minute in November in protest after Excelsior winger Ahmad Mendes Moreira was subjected to abuse at Den Bosch, giving Lukaku food for thought.

"For me, Italy is a beautiful country to live in," the former Manchester United man told Sky Sports.

"Italy has such a potential to be a great league like it used to, but we have to work together to keep those ignorant people out of the stadium.

"It happened in Holland as well, when I watched a game in the second division.

"I spoke to the guy that it happened to where they stopped the games for one minute, I spoke to the guy and said, 'You did well to walk off the pitch and to celebrate in front of those ignorant people'.

"I think we need to take things into our own hands. I don't think we should leave it to the federations.

"Holland did a great job, they did a fantastic job with all of their players. Sometimes in other countries we, as players, have to take matters into our own hands."

Lautaro Martinez is "very happy" at Inter despite his form this season prompting reported interest from across Europe.

Argentina striker Martinez scored his 15th goal of the campaign during Inter's 1-1 draw against Atalanta at the weekend.

The 22-year-old's partnership in attack with Romelu Lukaku has established the Nerazzurri as serious title challengers to Juventus in Serie A.

His performances have also apparently caught the attention of Barcelona, who are facing up to four months without Luis Suarez, while it has also been claimed Manchester City view Martinez as a suitable long-term heir to their all-time record goalscorer Sergio Aguero.

"I'm very happy here at Inter, people love me and I love them," Martinez told TyC Sports.

"If you talk about me [as a transfer target] it is because I do my job well. I must continue on this path.

"I am very calm, I live day to day and I am happy and comfortable here."

Conte took charge of Inter before the start of this season and Martinez credits the former Juve and Chelsea boss as a driving force behind his rapid progress.

“Many things have changed since he came in," Martinez said. "He has a special way of doing things and has taught us so much from his first day in charge.

"He has convinced us to all give our best and the results are there for all to see.

“I have had to adapt to a new culture in another country and learn another language. I played little under the previous manager, but under Conte I have grown a lot and I am enjoying how things are going."

Conte secured the capture of Lukaku from Manchester United, a player he tried to sign at Chelsea, and Martinez has been a huge beneficiary of the head coach getting his man.

"Lukaku helps me a lot, he is a player who – on and off the field – is very important to me," Martinez said of the Belgium international, who has 18 goals in all competitions this term.

"He is a very good person who helps me out. I am very happy to have met him.”

Romelu Lukaku said leaving Manchester United for Inter was his best option after the star forward continued his red-hot form with a brace in the Coppa Italia.

Lukaku scored twice in Tuesday's 4-1 victory over Cagliari to take his season tally to 18 goals across all competitions for Inter since his club-record arrival at the start of the campaign.

The Belgium international opened the scoring after just 21 seconds, while he also headed in Inter's third in the second half at San Siro, where the Nerazzurri advanced to the quarter-finals.

"I must thank my team-mates, the coach, the backroom staff and the fans. Everyone has helped me from day one," Lukaku, who has scored six goals in his last four games, told Rai.

"Inter were my best option. I can grow here and I can give my contribution. My role is to help the team in any way and I know that the fans like this. I must keep this up.

"Obviously, scoring is the objective, however, I'm not just thinking about myself, but also the team. I'm here to achieve this and I hope to win something. However, for now, I'm only focused on Lecce."

Inter head coach Antonio Conte, who wanted to sign Lukaku during his time at Chelsea before finally getting his man this season, said: "You know that I don't like to talk too much about individuals. Romelu is proving his worth and he can still keep improving."

On the team following Saturday's 1-1 draw with Atalanta, which saw Inter drop two points behind Serie A champions Juventus in the race for the Scudetto, Conte added: "I'm really pleased, it was a great response from the lads. Even from those who've played less of late and those who were coming back from injury.

"I'm happy for [Nicolo] Barella, who is recovering after his injury and he was one of our starters today, as was [Alexis] Sanchez. He is an important player for us and slowly he'll get back to his best. I'm also pleased for Borja Valero, who proved himself once again today, as well as [Valentino] Lazaro, [Federico] Dimarco and [Andrea] Ranocchia, who haven't had many chances so far but all played really well. 

"There's real harmony among this group, they are a great bunch of lads that want to do well. I'm really pleased to be working with them. We rounded off an important first half of the season in the league, picking up 46 points despite our difficulties and they have now left us in a strong position.

"The second half of the campaign won't be easy but we've started on our journey and we want to keep growing, maintaining the right amount of patience to bring everything together."

Romelu Lukaku scored a double to guide Inter into the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia as they breezed to a 4-1 win over Cagliari.

Lukaku is enjoying an excellent first season with the Nerazzurri following his move from Manchester United and went into Tuesday's clash at San Siro with 16 goals in 24 games in all competitions.

He added to that tally with a goal in each half against a Cagliari side an impressive sixth in Serie A despite a poor run of form, needing only 21 seconds to open the scoring after Christian Oliva inadvertently played him through on goal.

His goals were sandwiched by a tap-in from Borja Valero and Antonio Conte's Serie A challengers were rarely threatened until Oliva atoned for his earlier error with an emphatically taken consolation.

Andrea Ranocchia restored Inter's three-goal lead late on and they will now switch focus back to an engrossing title battle with Juventus.

Lukaku was ruthless in punishing Oliva's error as he calmly slotted into the bottom-right corner and he would have had a second if not for a questionable offside decision, the Belgium striker adjudged to have strayed as he turned home a near-post cross in the 11th minute.

The former United man was unable to connect with Nicolo Barella's right-wing cross, but it mattered not as the delivery was bundled in by Valero at the second attempt.

Cagliari continued to afford Lukaku opportunities and four minutes into the second half he steered a difficult header into the net from another superb Barella ball into the box.

Radja Nainggolan, on loan at Cagliari from Inter, struck the post with a vicious drive, before Oliva beat Samir Handanovic with a rasping finish from Alberto Cerri's backheel lay-off.

However, poor marking at a corner allowed Ranocchia to make absolutely sure of victory as he converted from substitute Cristiano Biraghi's set-piece 10 minutes from time.

 

What does it mean? Inter take step towards silverware

Inter have not lifted a trophy since winning this competition in 2011, but this was a performance of a side primed to end that drought. Conte's side were in control from the start and never lost their grip on the contest. Atalanta or Fiorentina will be up next.

Ruthless Romelu

Lukaku has adapted brilliantly to Italian football and he provided another demonstration of his significant goalscoring prowess with a clinical display.

No case for Cagliari defence

Oliva's howler meant they were on the back foot from the off, but Cagliari's defending, particularly in the first half, left a lot to be desired and on another day Inter would have won by a wider margin.

What's next?

Inter visit Lecce in Serie A on Sunday, when Cagliari are away at Brescia. These two sides meet again at the same venue in the league a week later.

Antonio Conte hit back at critics of Inter and star forward Romelu Lukaku after his high-flying side stayed level on points with Juventus atop Serie A.

Lukaku scored twice as Inter defeated Napoli 3-1 away from home on Monday, following Juve's 4-0 rout of Cagliari earlier in the day.

After celebrating his 100th Serie A victory as a coach, Conte responded to comments about Inter's counter-attacking strength.

"I don't think Inter defended and went on the counter, as we tried to press Napoli right on the edge of their own area for the whole game," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"I hear people always saying we play counter-attacking football, but this is a side that knows what it has to do every time it is in possession.

"We play knowing full well everything we have to do at any moment of the match. Fortunately, our opponents respect us more than the media seem to. People say we win away because we defend deep and go on the counter, but that is certainly not our approach."

Inter's record signing Lukaku took his Serie A tally to 14 goals this season thanks to his brace at the San Paolo, where Lautaro Martinez was also on target.

Lukaku has starred since arriving from Manchester United, where he only managed 12 Premier League goals in 32 appearances last season.

"I heard people say Lukaku was a donkey. I heard all sorts not even that long ago! It's easy to speak highly of Lukaku now, but if we look back to a few weeks ago…" Conte said.

"I always said Romelu was a rough diamond that needed work to smooth him out. Lautaro Martinez is the same. These lads are 26 and 22 years old, they are still young.

"I wanted Romelu very strongly when I was at Chelsea, even back at Juventus. I wanted him, now I can get to work on polishing the diamond."

Romelu Lukaku scored a double as Inter comfortably beat Napoli 3-1 for their first Serie A win at the San Paolo in just over 22 years.

Inter were on Monday briefly replaced at the top of the league by Juventus, who downed Cagliari 4-0, but regained their spot at the summit with an impressive triumph.

Lukaku struck twice in the first half, the second coming thanks to a blunder from Napoli goalkeeper Alex Meret, before Arkadiusz Milik halved the deficit in the 39th minute.

Lautaro Martinez made sure of the result in the second half, with the victory Antonio Conte's 100th as a coach in Serie A.

Giovanni Di Lorenzo was punished for an unfortunate slip in the 14th minute, as Lukaku latched onto the loose ball and raced forward to fire in off the left post.

Meret did well to deny Matias Vecino and Martinez but he undid his good work in the 33rd minute when he diverted Lukaku's powerful drive from 18 yards between his own legs and in.

Napoli stayed positive and, after Samir Handanovic just about kept out Lorenzo Insigne, Jose Callejon squared Piotr Zielinski's diagonal delivery into the six-yard box for Milik to tap home before the break.

The tempo dropped off in the second half but Inter again made Napoli pay for an error. Kostas Manolas was unable to clear Vecino's right-wing delivery and instead teed up Martinez to stab home with 62 minutes played.

Tempers flared when Fabian Ruiz forcefully kicked the ball into the Inter dugout, with Sebastiano Esposito and Antonio Conte going into the book for their reactions.

Insigne clipped the crossbar with a 20-yard free-kick as Napoli proved unable to spark a comeback.

Martinez almost doubled his tally in stoppage time but, after rounding Meret, was dispossessed by Di Lorenzo, who looked fortunate not to concede a penalty for his challenge.

 

What does it mean? Conte brings up his ton

Conte's first win as a Serie A coach came in October 2009 while in charge of Atalanta and he reached 100 victories in 145 matches. That is the quickest of any boss to have made their debut in the division from 1994-95 onwards. He will hope to keep up the impressive pace and lead Inter to their first Scudetto since 2010.

Lukaku looking sharp

Lukaku has been prolific away from home this season and now has 10 goals in his nine appearances on the road. He was a threat from the off and thoroughly deserved his brace.

A demerit for Napoli's keeper

After making decent saves from Vecino and Martinez, Meret committed a howler when he let Lukaku's stinging shot squirm through him to hand Inter a 2-0 lead.

What's next?

Inter will be without Milan Skriniar after he was shown a fifth yellow card of the season when they entertain Atalanta at San Siro on Saturday, while Napoli head to Lazio the same day.

Sebastiano Esposito spoke of his gratitude to team-mate Romelu Lukaku after his Inter strike partner allowed him to take a penalty he then converted in an historic appearance against Genoa.

With Lautaro Martinez suspended amid a host of other absences, 17-year-old Esposito made his first Serie A start for Inter on Saturday in an emphatic 4-0 home win that put Antonio Conte's men top of Serie A.

He was the youngest player to begin a Serie A game for the club in the 21st century and then became their second-youngest league scorer when he netted a 64th-minute penalty.

With Inter two goals ahead, designated spot-kick taker Lukaku – who inspired the win with two goals along with an assist for Roberto Gagliardini - accepted Esposito's request to hand the ball over, allowing the youngster to fire past goalkeeper Ionut Radu.

"I found myself in sync with Romelu right away, he's a fantastic person who's always looking to help me," Esposito, who celebrated the goal with his mother, said to Sky Sport Italia.

"He reassured me a lot by saying that everything would go alright and I'm so happy to have scored. 

"It's been a fantastic week, I can't lie, I didn't sleep a lot thinking about how this game would go. I'd like to thank the team, the coach, the club and Romelu especially for the goal. 

"He's a fantastic person and an extraordinary player. He told me to be sure of myself when I stepped up to strike the ball and to score.

"I'm happy with the win and with the faith that the coach has shown in me, now the more difficult part is coming and we'll need to work hard. 

"All of the sacrifices I've made are now bearing fruit and I hope that I can continue on this path because there's still a lot of work to be done."

The comprehensive victory by a depleted Inter side was a timely one after a three-game winless run that included their Champions League group-stage elimination.

Conte said: "We didn't need to wait for this game to say that the team has grown in every aspect.

"The difficulties faced have made the squad more responsible and meant that everyone has been involved. This shows that we've always had the right attitude and that includes those who have played less.

"We put in a brilliant performance despite all the difficulties and players missing. Gagliardini, Matias Vecino and Borja Valero made themselves available even though they weren't in the best condition.

"When you have these players who put the team ahead of everything, you can be pleased regardless of the result. Now, we need to keep it up and keep surprising people."

Antonio Conte has said Lautaro Martinez and Romelu Lukaku "need a breather" after Inter were pegged back late on against Fiorentina.

Borja Valero's early goal looked to be enough to be sending Conte's side two points clear of Juventus at the top of Serie A on Sunday, but Inter were ultimately made to pay for some wasteful finishing.

Substitute Dusan Vlahovic was the hero for Fiorentina, picking up the ball in his own half before driving clear of Inter's defence and thumping a fine finish beyond Samir Handanovic in stoppage time.

Conte, whose side dropped out of the Champions League in midweek due to a last-gasp defeat to Barcelona, believes fatigue is proving the crucial factor in Inter's concession of late goals, as well as Martinez and Lukaku's shows of profligacy, with both players passing up great opportunities against Fiorentina.

"It's hard to talk about fitness levels, because we've had seven games in 21 days, with Lautaro and Lukaku playing constantly," Conte told Sky Sport Italia.

"Unfortunately, the Alexis Sanchez injury left us in a situation where we couldn't give them any respite, so I can only thank them. These players need a breather, but we cannot afford to give it to them.

"These are games where we didn't take the results we deserved. Against Barcelona, we paid for wasting several chances to score and allowing two situations where we could've done a lot better.

"It was a strong response from the team. It’s disappointing about that late equaliser, because we deserved more, both tonight and against Barcelona.

"I don't think we can complain about the effort or attitude of these lads. It is a growth process, we need patience to learn from mistakes. If we don't have patience and assume we must win every game because we are Inter, then we're not progressing.

"We are talking about players who are constantly going out there and playing 90 minutes, so inevitably there is going to be some fatigue."

The draw has left Inter level on points with Juve heading into their final match of 2019, with the Nerazzurri taking on Genoa on Saturday.

However, they will have to do so without Martinez, who received his fifth booking of the season against Fiorentina, and Marcelo Brozovic, who is likewise suspended.

Manchester United defender Luke Shaw appeared to mock former team-mate Romelu Lukaku after Inter exited the Champions League on Tuesday.

Lukaku's 12th goal of the season for Inter in all competitions was not enough to prevent the Nerazzurri losing 2-1 to a much-changed Barcelona team at San Siro.

The result, combined with Borussia Dortmund's 2-1 win over Slavia Prague, meant Inter finished third in Group F and will therefore drop into the Europa League for the rest of the season.

Shaw was quick to poke fun at Lukaku on social media after the match.

Responding to a post from the striker back in October, showing Lukaku smiling in training with the caption "UCL", the acronym for UEFA Champions League, Shaw said on Tuesday: "Welcome back."

Lukaku, who left United to join Inter for a reported initial fee of €65million in August, could now face his former employers in the last 32 of the Europa League.

United have qualified from their group but must avoid defeat to AZ at Old Trafford on Thursday in order to secure top spot and enter Monday's draw as a seeded team.

If they do not, they could be drawn against Inter if Antonio Conte's side end up as one of the four best teams from the total of eight to drop out of the Champions League.

Inter are presently the third-best of the third-place teams, behind Ajax and Salzburg, with the remaining four groups to be completed on Wednesday.

Inter have failed to get beyond the Champions League group stage for a second successive season after losing 2-1 at home to Barcelona, with Ansu Fati's late winner making him the youngest scorer in the competition's history.

The Serie A leaders needed to at least match Borussia Dortmund's result against Slavia Prague due to being level on seven points before the game, but the Germans emerged 2-1 victors to secure their progression as Inter were made to rue their own wasteful finishing.

After weathering an early Inter storm, a much-changed Barca went ahead through fringe forward Carles Perez, though their lead did not last – Romelu Lukaku blasting in from 20 yards.

Lukaku was otherwise wasteful in front of goal, however, missing a particularly fine opportunity early in the second period, before the visitors sealed Inter's fate late on through 17-year-old Fati, dropping the Italians into the Europa League.

Inter dropped points for just the third time this season as they played out a frustrating goalless draw with Roma in a forgettable Serie A encounter.

The build-up to the game was dominated by a controversial Corriere dello Sport headline in which the words 'Black Friday' were placed in between images of Inter striker Romelu Lukaku and Roma defender Chris Smalling, former Manchester United team-mates, with the publication's strident denial that their front page was racially insensitive merely drawing more criticism.

On the pitch there were few talking points, although Inter will rue Roma goalkeeper Antonio Mirante making fine saves in each half to deny Lukaku and Matias Vecino.

A point means Inter are unbeaten in eight games but champions Juventus can reclaim top spot if they beat Lazio on Saturday, while Roma climb to fourth for now.

Lukaku was presented with a golden chance seven minutes in by Jordan Veretout's undercooked pass, stand-in keeper Mirante smartly stopping his side-footed effort.

From there, Inter chased a lot of Roma shadows without truly being hurt, save for a well-struck shot by false nine Nicolo Zaniolo that Samir Handanovic made a hash of smothering.

A poor half was summed up by Marcelo Brozovic firing wildly over, the chance arriving courtesy of a slack Mirante clearance and Lukaku's pass at the second attempt.

Mirante made amends shortly after the restart, producing a fine stop low to his left from Vecino's prod after the midfielder was played in by Borja Valero.

Lautaro Martinez saw vehement protests for handball against Gianluca Mancini in the penalty area fall on deaf ears as Inter became increasingly desperate.

Lukaku's wayward header from a Cristiano Biraghi cross skewed wide and Martinez produced a woeful airshot from Vecino's dangerous low centre as Inter failed to make the breakthrough.

What does it mean? Inter struggle to shift through the gears

The Nerazzurri have impressed under Antonio Conte this term and a title race with Juventus looks likely to go deep into the season. But Inter were a little static in midfield and, on the occasions they did break through the lines, Martinez and Lukaku were uncharacteristically shot-shy.

Mirante the able deputy

With first-choice keeper Pau Lopez out injured, Inter may have sensed an opportunity to make life difficult for Roma. But Mirante was more than up to the task, especially when frustrating Lukaku and Vecino.

Lautar-woe Martinez

Argentina striker Martinez has been in fine form, scoring 12 times since the start of October. But this was a rare off-night, with the few chances he did have well off target.

What's next?

Inter face a crucial home clash with Barcelona in their attempt to reach the Champions League last 16 on Tuesday. Roma also need a result at home to Wolfsberger on Thursday to make the Europa League knockout stages.

Corriere dello Sport claimed to be victim of a "lynching" over its controversial "Black Friday" headline as editor Ivan Zazzaroni suggested some clubs had expressed support.

The Italian sports publication sparked outrage when it used the term on Thursday's front page to accompany images of Romelu Lukaku and Chris Smalling.

The former Manchester United team-mates are set to square off in a Serie A fixture between Inter and Roma on Friday.

Inter striker Lukaku called it the "dumbest" headline he had ever seen and Smalling labelled it "highly insensitive".

But after hitting out at social media and criticism and declaring its "innocent" intentions, Corriere refused to backtrack with its next edition.

Friday's headline read: "Racist to whom? Lynching of a newspaper that has been defending freedom and equality for a century".

The front page included a collage of past headlines condemning racism and an editorial from Zazzaroni that insisted "Black Friday" was meant to be a celebration of diversity.

Roma and Inter's city rivals Milan responded by banning the newspaper from speaking to their players and attending training sessions for the remainder of 2019.

In an appearance on Telelombardia, Zazzaroni said: "The other clubs have expressed solidarity. I don't have to justify myself. In the newspaper we did many articles on the fight against racism.

"The headline has been explained and clarified. It was a pun on two champions of anti-racism.

"Lukaku's agent [Federico Pastorello] even said that there was an association with other [newspapers] with the aim of debasing both players.

"Let's say that the exchange between me and Pastorello wasn't very uplifting."

Racism controversies have plagued Italian football this season. Lukaku and Brescia's Mario Balotelli were separately subjected to taunts from supporters during matches in September and November.

Serie A clubs recently signed an open letter vowing to address the issue of racism within the Italian game, with football authorities criticised for not doing enough to punish examples or racial discrimination at matches.

Roma and Milan have banned Corriere dello Sport from their training grounds and told players not to speak to the newspaper for the rest of the year.

On Thursday, the Italian sports daily published the headline 'Black Friday' – accompanied by pictures of Roma's Chris Smalling and Inter's Romelu Lukaku – ahead of the Serie A clash between the two sides.

The headline was widely criticised as being racial insensitive, with Smalling and Lukaku both expressing disappointment.

However, Corriere dello Sport's editor described the headline as "innocent" and insisted the words reflected "the pride of difference, the wonderful wealth of difference", adding: "If you don't get it, it is because you can't or you don't want to."

The clubs announced their sanctions against the newspaper in a joint statement.

It read: "We believe that players, clubs, supporters and the media must be united in the fight against racism in football and we all have a responsibility to be very precise in the words we choose and the messages we deliver.

"In response to the 'Black Friday' headline published by the newspaper, Roma and Milan have decided to ban Corriere dello Sport from our training facilities for the rest of the year and our players will not carry out any media activities with the newspaper during this period.

"Both clubs are aware that the actual newspaper article associated with the headline did portray an anti-racist message and for this reason, we have only banned Corriere dello Sport until January. We remain totally committed to tackling racism."

Chris Smalling has said Corriere dello Sport's editors must "take responsibility" for the newspaper's 'Black Friday' headline, which he has described as "wrong and highly insensitive".

Smalling, who has excelled on loan at Roma from Manchester United this season, was featured on the front page of Thursday's edition of the Italian publication, alongside his former team-mate Romelu Lukaku.

The headline – referencing the first Friday after Thanksgiving in the United States when retail sales mark the start of the Christmas shopping period – was used apparently in reference to the skin colour of both Smalling and Lukaku ahead of Roma's clash with Serie A leaders Inter on Friday.

The newspaper's choice has been widely criticised, with Roma, who along with the rest of Serie A's clubs recently demanded authorities do more to tackle racism in Italian football, among those to express disappointment.

Smalling has now responded, with the defender posting on his official Twitter account: "Whilst I would have liked to spend the day focusing on the big game tomorrow, it is important that I acknowledge that what occurred this morning was wrong and highly insensitive.

"I hope the editors involved in running this headline take responsibility and understand the power they possess through words, and the impact those words can have.

"A big shout to Roma for the support! Now let the battle commence Rom, daje Roma!"

Lukaku also reacted, labelling the newspaper's headline as the "dumbest" he has ever known.

He wrote: "Instead of focusing on a battle between two teams.. Corriere dello Sport comes with the most dumbest of headlines I have ever seen in my career.

"You guys keep fuelling the negativity and the racism issue. Instead of talking about the beautiful game that's going to be played at San Siro between two great clubs.

"Education is key. You guys of Corriere dello Sport should do a better job at that."

Earlier on Thursday, Corriere dello Sport's editor described the headline as "innocent".

The newspaper said the headline reflected "the pride of difference, the wonderful wealth of difference", adding: "If you don't get it, it is because you can't or you don't want to."

Lukaku's agent, Federico Pastorello, hit out at the publication and acknowledged Italian football has issues with racism within the game. Pastorello said it was also a wider cultural problem in Italy.

Romelu Lukaku's agent Federico Pastorello has condemned newspaper Corriere dello Sport and acknowledged Italian football has an issue with racism.

Lukaku and former Manchester United team-mate Chris Smalling featured on the front page of Thursday's issue of the popular newspaper, which printed the headline "Black Friday" ahead of Inter's meeting with Roma in Serie A.

The headline has been widely criticised, and it follows on from numerous examples of racist behaviour across Italian football this season – with Lukaku having already been a victim of such abuse earlier in the campaign.

While Italy struggles with uncomfortable questions regarding cultural issues of discrimination, Pastorello believes the country has ingrained problems with racism.

"Being Italian I'm really ashamed to read a title like that, but I really don't want to talk about a single episode," Pastorello told Sky Sports.

"At the end of the day, the racist problem is a big problem. Unfortunately we are living in 1920. It's really a culture problem.

"Being an agent, we are trying to protect our clients from this huge problem, because it's not only a newspaper but it's a problem you can breathe in the stadium, in social media, on the street. I think it's a problem that is a culture problem.

"What I would like and wish for the future is institutions could take it more serious. There were some episodes in Champions League recently, also in Serie A games and the institution did not take so seriously the problem.

"[Lukaku] is very sensitive on this problem. I like his attitude because he's facing it every time with strength and power. For sure he is not happy about that, but he's strong enough to face it."

Corriere dello Sport's editor, however, has described the headline as "innocent".

The newspaper said its choice of words reflected "the pride of difference, the wonderful wealth of difference", adding: "If you don't get it, it is because you can't or you don't want to."

Serie A clubs recently signed an open letter vowing to address the issue of racism within the Italian game, with football authorities criticised for not doing enough to punish examples or racial discrimination at matches.

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