Exclusive – Inter will head into the summer planning for some major transfer business. Antonio Conte’s arrival last summer was designed to lead I Nerazzurri to the Serie A title, but Juventus remain untouched at the top of the table. Inter finished four last season and are on track to do the same this year.
Achraf Hakimi has already joined from Real Madrid, but one Inter star who could be heading over to Spain is Lautaro Martínez. The 22-year-old Argentine forward has established himself as a real star at the top of Conte’s side and is seen by Barcelona as the perfect heir to Luis Suárez’s throne at Camp Nou.
Since links to the La Liga giants began to intensify, Martínez has suffered somewhat of a downturn in form. A red card against Cagliari kick-started a run of just one goal in eight games for the Argentine, and it’s no coincidence that Inter have slipped from second to fourth in that time.
Speaking exclusively to 90min, former Inter star Álvaro Recoba warned Martínez that he needs to make a decision on his future soon before his form takes too much of a blow.
“That for me is playing against him,” Recoba says. “Because, if he doesn’t go it becomes an issue, the fact that he’s playing here but thinking about there. ‘If I go, if I don’t go…’
“And there is a matter of mentally saying ‘I am not going, I am fantastic at Inter’, and that’s it. Or, if he’s really thinking about going, let him do it, but he has to make that decision as soon as possible. Because that blocks you unconsciously.
“You need to know that you have to make a decision, otherwise it makes you lose focus a bit.”
Recoba is well-equipped to talk about what it takes to make it at Inter. The Uruguayan spent 11 years on the books at Inter between 1997 and 2008, racking up 71 goals, 29 assists and two Serie A titles from 261 appearances.
Two of those goals came on his debut back on 31 August 1997 against Brescia. Brought off the bench, Recoba bagged two late goals to steer Inter to a 2-1 victory and ensured that his was the name everyone remembered from the game.
That’s an incredible achievement when you remember that Recoba was making his debut at the same time as Brazilian sensation Ronaldo, whose £19.5m world-record move to Inter had been completed just weeks earlier.
“The best striker [I ever played with], for sure,” Recoba remembers of Ronaldo. “I don’t know if he’s the one who understood me the most, because I had other teammates with whom I played longer, but the best teammate I had as a ‘number 9’ was him.
“It’s strange when they tell me ‘you outshone him’. How can I outshine him? These types of stars you can’t outshine. He was a great superstar.”
Often playing behind the striker or out on the wing, Recoba admits that he knew he was never the focal point of the team, but he never had a problem with that.
“At no time was I competitive or wanted to be better than the others,” he adds. “I played football for the fun of it and because I liked it. If it was someone else’s turn to score, I had no problem with that, if I scored – even better. But I never had that need to be more than others. I enjoyed it very much but without any competition.”
In fact, there were times in which Recoba intentionally took a back seat to Ronaldo, who was always on the hunt for goalscoring titles wherever he went.
“The last game of the championship we played Inter vs Empoli,” Recoba recalls. “Roni had to score three goals that match to be top scorer.
“And it so happens that we make a move, where I am one on one with the goalkeeper. He gives me the pass, I go one on one. I dummy to shoot but instead I pass the ball to him and he walks it in. In the end he couldn’t score all three but he got two that match, but the best version of him was that year at Inter.
“Beyond that he did many good things. For the national team, he was world champion, at Barcelona, ??Real Madrid, and AC Milan. But that year, I can assure you he was the one who led the team by the hand to win.”
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