Achraf Hakimi assures he wants to stay at Inter ‘for a long time’ and sees coach Antonio Conte as ‘a big brother’, but hits back at critics of their defensive style. ‘It’s a football match, not a film.’
The Nerazzurri are 11 points clear at the top of the Serie A table and marching towards their first Scudetto since 2010.
“It was a gradual growth process, as many of us were new here, myself included, so we took a while to get to know each other,” Hakimi told La Repubblica newspaper.
“Some things also happened that gave us that extra push. The Champions League elimination allowed us to focus entirely on Serie A and we learned from every defeat what we really wanted to do. We talk about the Scudetto with respect, knowing it’s not won yet. That’s the objective, I won’t lie, but there’s a while to go.”
Conte’s celebrations are becoming increasingly agitated on the touchline, running towards Hakimi and giving him a kiss after the assist for Matteo Darmian’s winner against Cagliari.
“That was a lovely gesture of affection. The coach is with us no matter what happens. He’s like a big brother, for age and experience. He lets us be free and enjoy our football, which you can tell. He’s not just a coach, he’s part of this group that he created.
“I grew up at Real Madrid with a four-man defence, but I do have more freedom to push forward in a 3-5-2. The focus on tactics and defending are central to Conte’s idea of football and making me a more complete player. Our strength is that we want the same things and are all on the same page, off and on the field.”
Hakimi’s agent revealed this week that he had been targeted by numerous clubs, including Napoli, before choosing Inter.
“The team that attracted me the most was Inter and I saw it as a growth project. I am honoured to be one of the testimonials for the new club logo. I like it, as it looks to the future, a future we can build together. I hope to stay at this club for a long time, I’m very happy,” added the wing-back.
And yet, there are those who criticise the Nerazzurri for being too negative, focused on defend and counter tactics.
“It’s a football match, not a film. In football what counts is scoring goals and not conceding them, winning games and finishing first in tournaments.”
The Brazilian Ronaldo said that he would’ve liked to play with Hakimi in his Inter team.
“I wonder what we could’ve done together! You can do anything with Ronaldo, it would’ve been wonderful to run down the flank and provide him an assist.”