Conte: ‘Inter was the ultimate challenge’

Antonio Conte insists ‘coming to Inter was the ultimate challenge’ and he is on the verge of winning it, as they face Cagliari for another step towards the Scudetto.

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“Looking at the Cagliari squad, it’s hard to believe they are in this position. We know it’ll be a difficult game, as they started the season with very different targets and have a competitive squad,” said Conte in his press conference.

Among the players in the Sardinian side are two on loan from Inter, Radja Nainggolan and Diego Godin. Does Conte regret not getting more from them at San Siro?

“No. I always thanked Radja for the time he spent here, but that is in the past. We’ll have to be wary of him, because last season he scored a goal and we were held to a 1-1 draw. Those who play against their ex-clubs always give a bit extra.”

Inter have been criticised for their ‘negative’ style of football, having just 30 per cent possession at home in the 2-1 win over Sassuolo on Wednesday, sparking a debate over how effective that sort of approach is in Europe.

“Seeing as over the last nine years only one club has won in Italy, we needed something exceptional. We must continue concentrating on that and the same goes for anyone who talks about Inter.

“There’s no point talking about the future, we have to focus on the present and we have the opportunity to do something exceptional. What the lads are doing ought to be lauded, not asking whether or not we can win the Champions League next year.

“So far, we’ve done nothing other than give Inter back credibility, meaning we are now seen as antagonists in Italy and Europe. Don’t forget, reaching the Europa League Final last season was also the best run an Italian club has had on the continent in several years.

“The final step remains and we haven’t made it yet. We hope it’ll happen, but we also know that disappointment can be right around the corner. I have enough experience to know you focus only on the present. Maybe in future they will talk about what we’re doing now as extraordinary.

“I already said that coming to Inter was the most difficult choice I could possibly make, in every respect, but I am not a person who rests on his laurels. I like to challenge myself.

“I think Inter was the ultimate challenge. I had, and continue to have, much to lose, but I’m pig-headed and am ready to knock down walls with this head if I have to.”