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Conte defends Lukaku over 'donkey' criticism, insists Inter striker is a 'rough diamond'

Antonio Conte has hit back at previous criticism of Romelu Lukaku following the forward’s prolific goalscoring form since his arrival at Inter Milan.

The Belgian international has enjoyed a superb start to his career in Italian football and scored twice during Inter’s 3-1 at Napoli yesterday, a result that keeps the club top of Serie A and ahead of defending champions Juventus on goal difference.

Lukaku’s brace took the 26-year-old to 14 league goals in just 17 starts, the former Manchester United and Everton star having formed a formidable partnership alongside Lautaro Martinez for the Nerazzurri since his £73m move from Old Trafford during the summer.

Inter boss Conte has long been a fan of the player and previously tried to sign Lukaku during his time in charge at both Juventus and Chelsea, and 50-year-old has defended the forward who has often been a target for criticism in recent times.

Conte said: ‘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…

‘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.’

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