Football is not rugby! Conte cool on Inter derby hero EriksenJanuary 31, 2021
Antonio Conte has told Christian Eriksen he must show more than free-kick prowess to establish himself at Inter.
Former Tottenham midfielder Eriksen netted a trademark set-piece effort to settle Tuesday’s fiery Coppa Italia derby against Milan deep into stoppage time.
The Denmark international was understandably mobbed by his team-mates and Conte said afterwards that the Inter squad “love” a player whose career at San Siro has failed to catch fire since joining from Spurs 12 months ago.
Nevertheless, he struck a more measured tone ahead of Saturday’s home game against Benevento.
“In rugby they have players who are kickers and are set-piece specialists. Football is very different,” he said, when asked at a pre-match news conference whether Eriksen might start.
“We hope to have him play a part in all areas, not just from free-kicks and set-plays.
“We know that Inter have struggled from free-kicks until recently. It is an extra weapon to have a free-kick specialist.”
Conte is also reportedly keen on an extra weapon in attack, although he refused to be drawn too far into discussing speculation that Inter might sign out-of-favour Roma striker Edin Dzeko, with Alexis Sanchez moving in the opposite direction.
“I have not asked for anything from the club, let us start by saying that,” he said.
“If someone has said that, then it is not the case. We have this squad and that is the way it is.
“It is not the coach who goes asking for players all the time. I have had little to say so far this season
“Dzeko is a Roma player I have respect for him. I have respect for my players too
“The situation is clear – this is our squad and that is the situation. If someone is unhappy and ask to go then that is different.
“We will make that player happy. Otherwise I cannot foresee changes.
“We know the situation we find ourselves in. We cannot create situations that are not there. We need to focus on working hard.
“We need to look ahead and accept this situation we are in.
“It is not right to talk about things that can distract the side. I do not want distractions from my players.”
On Sanchez, he added: “Sanchez is an Inter player and needs to stay focused.”
Conte will be absent from the bench against Benevento as he serves a touchline ban, while top scorer Romelu Lukaku is also suspended after collecting his fifth booking of the season against Milan.
That followed a heated confrontation with Zlatan Ibrahimovic that continued after the half-time whistle.
The veteran Milan striker was sent off for a second booking when he fouled Aleksandar Kolarov during the second half and has been forced to deny allegations that he racially abused Lukaku.
“It has been spoken about a lot,” Conte said.
“I do not know and I’m not interested. My task is to be a coach and I focus on that area.”