Antonio Conte has seen evidence of “massive progress” in Lautaro Martinez’s game both with and without the ball during his time as Inter coach.
Conte arrived at San Siro in 2019, a year after striker Martinez was signed from Racing Club.
The Argentina international’s debut campaign had brought just nine goals and two assists in 35 games in all competitions, but those figures quickly improved under Conte.
Martinez tallied 21 goals and five assists in 49 outings last season and has scored 16 times and created six more for team-mates in 38 appearances in the 2020-21 campaign.
His minutes-per-goal rate has improved across his three seasons in Italy, this season finding the back of the net every 162.2 minutes.
Martinez is also creating more chances, 1.4 per 90 minutes, resulting in the increase in assists, but his work in defending from the front has been similarly impressive.
The 23-year-old has won possession in the final third 32 times this term (1.1 per 90) and posted 31 interceptions (also 1.1 per 90), comfortably more than in his previous two seasons combined.
Among Serie A forwards to score 15 or more goals in all competitions this season, Martinez leads the way in both categories as well as in recoveries per 90 (3.1).
Conte was asked about his number 10 ahead of Inter’s game with Sassuolo on Wednesday, and said: “He has improved in all areas, on the ball and off the ball.
“He has improved when it comes to holding up possession and attacking the space.
“Like the other players, he has made massive progress. He needs to stay on this track. Taking his age into account, he has a very bright future ahead. It’s in his hands.”
Of those with 15 goals or more, Martinez’s strike partner Romelu Lukaku ranked last for interceptions (0.1) and recoveries (1.6).
But Lukaku trails only Cristiano Ronaldo (31) in the scoring charts with 26 strikes in all competitions, and Conte is confident all of his players are contributing to the cause as Inter – eight points clear with Wednesday’s game in hand – close on a first Scudetto since 2009-10.
“I think for every side putting the team first is the most important factor,” the coach said. “Alone, you cannot win matches.
“It’s the team that gets the best out of the individual. The players have understood the message. They are all pulling in the same direction.”
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