Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku has opened up on how Antonio Conte calling him “trash” in front of his teammates inspired his red-hot form this season.
The Belgium international sealed a £74m move to the San Siro last summer and has scored 18 goals in 26 appearances across all competitions for the Italian club so far, helping them remain just four points behind Juventus in the race for the Serie A title.
As such, the Nerazzurri are 11/4 with William Hill* to lift the title at the end of the season, while Juventus remain 2/5 favourites.
Has Lukaku improved under Conte? Five key things to know…
- Romelu Lukaku left Manchester United to join Inter for £74m last summer.
- In his final season at Old Trafford, the Belgian managed just 15 goals in 45 games across all competitions.
- But he’s already already scored 18 in 26 appearances so far this season.
- Lukaku says Conte calling his poor performances “trash” in front of his teammates has helped motivate him.
- He also left Ole Gunnar Solskjaer off a list of his most influential coaches.
Lukaku became just the fifth player to have scored two or more goals in at least five games in Europe’s top five leagues across all competitions this season with his brace against Cagliari earlier this month — joining Robert Lewandowski, Timo Werner, Ciro Immobile and Sergio Aguero on that list.
But, according to the former Everton and Chelsea man, none of this would have been possible without some tough love from Conte.
“I remember one of my first Champions League games against Slavia Prague when I played really bad – like I was trash that day – and I really got it from him in front of the whole team,” Lukaku told Sky Sports.
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“He told me that I was really trash and that he would take me off after five minutes if I would have done it again.
“It’s little things like that. And we played the Milan derby just after that and I played one of my best games of the season.
“He just gave me that – he stepped on my confidence but it woke me up at the same time. He does it to everybody, it doesn’t matter who you are. Everybody is equal.
“It had never really happened to me before. It had never happened. The manager, he tells it straight to your face if you’re doing well or wrong.”
Lukaku omits Solskjaer from a list of his favourite coaches
When asked for a list of coaches who have got the best out of him, Lukaku named the likes of Ronald Koeman and Roberto Martinez alongside Conte, even suggesting Jose Mourinho would have had a bigger influence on his career had the right players been in the United squad at the time.
However, despite giving a lengthy list of names, which also included former West Brom manager Steve Clarke, Lukaku stopped short of adding Solskjaer’s name to the list.
“I think Roberto Martinez, Ronald Koeman and now Antonio Conte. I think Jose Mourinho – if he would have had the players that he wanted, he would have done better than what we did,” Lukaku added.
“Steve Clarke, massive mention to him, because he gave me the opportunity to play in the Premier League aged 19.
“And obviously my first coach at Anderlecht, Ariel Jacobs, who gave me the chance when I’d barely turned 16. He called me from school, they called me like, ‘Yo, you have to come with the first team’, and he played me straight away.
“Those are the coaches that forever I will respect them.”