Lukaku: Vidal could be the difference for ambitious Inter

MILAN (AP) — After coming close to two titles last season, Inter Milan has high hopes that its upgraded squad will end a 10-year wait for a trophy.

Inter finished a point behind Juventus in Serie A and lost the Europa League final to Sevilla in manager Antonio Conte’s first season. During the transfer window, the Nerazzurri were among the most active by bringing in midfielder Arturo Vidal and defenders Achraf Hakimi and Aleksandar Kolarov among others.

The signing of the 33-year-old Vidal — who played under Conte at Juventus — is considered a difference-maker.

“He is a player of really high quality,” Inter forward Romelu Lukaku said in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Last season we did very well but if we have to improve it’s in quality and experience. Two things that Vidal has. You don’t win so much and with different teams if you’re not a high-level player.”

Vidal was signed on Tuesday from Barcelona, where the Chilean won an eighth straight league title, including four with Juventus (three under Conte), and three with Bayern Munich.

Lukaku had his own impressive first season at Inter by netting 34 goals in all competitions. He formed a scintillating partnership with Lautaro Martínez that was crucial to Inter’s trophy challenge.

Lukaku warned Serie A rivals he has more room to improve, especially with more time under Conte.

“For me he (Conte) is a mentor, a father, someone who really understands me,” Lukaku said. “For me, playing for him is really the realization of a dream.

“You look at his teams and you understand that you can learn so much and improve so much, both as an individual and as a team. I feel I have grown so much last season, thanks to him and his staff. But we have to think it’s just the beginning, we must improve more and Conte is the right coach to do so.”

Going so close on three different fronts — Inter also lost in the Italian Cup semifinals to eventual winner Napoli — still smarts.

Inter wants to use that pain to drive it to success this season, starting with its opening Serie A match on Saturday against fierce rival Fiorentina — one of the three teams (along with Juventus and Roma) it failed to beat last year.

The Nerazzurri’s first scheduled match last week was postponed due to them finishing the season so late because of the Europa League final.

“It was a very difficult period for me after that match. I didn’t speak for four days after,” Lukaku said. “But one day I woke up and I gave myself an explanation.

“We didn’t win the league because of a point, we lost the Italian Cup semifinal because we didn’t score a goal, and then the Europa League final 3-2. They are things that happen. It’s only by suffering that you can improve.”

Inter has suffered since its treble in 2010 of the Champions League, Serie A and Italian Cup. Now it intends to make others suffer.

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