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Romelu Lukaku's hopes of joining Inter Milan hinge on club finding a buyer for Mauro Icardi

Matt Law
The Belgium international has made it clear he wishes to play in Italy - Getty Images Contributor

Romelu Lukaku’s hopes of clinching a move to Inter Milan rest on whether Manchester United can be persuaded to take Mauro Icardi as part of the deal, or another buyer emerges for the Argentine.

Inter will make United an offer of Icardi plus cash, as they cannot afford the £80 million valuation the Old Trafford club have placed on the Belgian.

The Italians need to offload Icardi, whose relationship with his Inter team-mates has broken down, before signing another high-profile striker.

United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer may not be keen on a deal that involves taking Icardi, given the fractious relationship between Inter and the player, whose wife, Wanda, acts as his agent.

But Inter do not have any other buyers lined up for Icardi, meaning they cannot afford a straight cash deal for Lukaku unless United drop their demands.

Inter Milan want to offload Mauro Icardi Credit: AP 

Other than the £80 million fee, Inter would have to find a way of getting close to Lukaku’s £255,000-a-week United wages.

New Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri has been linked with a move for Icardi and that could potentially unlock a cash move for Lukaku to Inter, but there has been no contact as yet.

Having tried to sign Lukaku for Chelsea two years ago, Conte is desperate to work with the striker and believes he can transform him into one of the best in the world.

Inter do have other players they could try to sell to raise cash for Lukaku, including Croatia winger Ivan Perisic, former Belgium midfielder Radja Nainggolan and Portugal forward Joao Mario, who had a spell on loan at West Ham United.

But that would still leave Conte the problem of having Icardi in his squad and potentially causing even more problems if he was below Lukaku in Inter’s pecking order.

United paid Everton an initial £75 million for Lukaku, who has three years left on his Old Trafford contract, and a further £5 million has since been paid in performance-related add-ons. Everton would be due an additional £5 million if Lukaku were to be sold this summer and United believe the striker’s age, contractual situation and goals record all bolster his valuation.

Lukaku has scored 42 goals in 96 appearances for United and 25 in his last 21 international appearances for Belgium, but he is reluctant to play second fiddle to Marcus Rashford, who is Solskjaer’s first-choice centre-forward.

Describing Conte as “the best manager in the world”, Lukaku has spoken publicly about his desire to play in Italy. Roberto Martinez, the Belgium coach, waded into the debate this week by suggesting Lukaku needed to leave United and that it would be in the player’s and the club’s best interests.