Antonio Conte said Romelu Lukaku had proved all his doubters wrong after the Belgian helped Inter move one step closer to the Scudetto.
Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez scored a goal in either half to secure a 2-1 win in the Nerazzurri’s game in hand at home to Sassuolo.
Inter are now 11 points clear of AC Milan at the top of Serie A after their tenth straight league win, with only nine games left.
“I haven’t forgotten how a lot of people turned their nose up when we signed Lukaku and said he was overrated,” Conte told DAZN in his post-match interview after the full-time whistle at San Siro.
“But I always said that he arrived here with his potential and that if he worked hard he could do extraordinary things.
“Lukaku has made exceptional improvements and can make even more, just like Lautaro.
“We’re well set in terms of attackers, those two are young whereas Alexis Sanchez is more mature, but they can all keep improving.
“They don’t play just to score but for the team, because they know that if they play like this the goals will arrive from the situations we create.
“They are more than happy to do the dirty work for us.”
Lautaro told reporters in his post-match interview that Inter’s players had a discussion at the halfway point of the season which set up their scintillating form.
Asked what was said in their meeting with Conte, he replied: “We still had a step to make if we really wanted to be key players this season and become contenders for the Scudetto.
“We needed to increase our level of determination and concentration in every situation, as well as our resilience.
“There are teams like Sassuolo today who come with a free mind and want to make a good impression, but if we’re better than them and clinical then we can score five or six goals.
“Congratulations to Sassuolo who came here to play the game on their own terms, these are important matches for us which demonstrate our growth as a team.
“We’d still be in the UEFA Champions League if we’d been playing with this attitude all along.”
Conte also spoke about Christian Eriksen’s performance at San Siro, with the Dane playing 59 minutes before being replaced by Stefano Sensi.
“I think Eriksen is still developing a part of his game he didn’t realise was in him,” Conte argued.
“We know the Italian league is very tactical but Christian is improving; he can still give more but we’re counting on him.
“Today he did what I’d asked from him in a very difficult match, where we knew we’d have to concede possession.
“Last season it finished 3-3 but we could have scored lots of goals here.
“I’m disappointed to have conceded because we had Milan Skriniar off the pitch, but we’re more balanced and mature now.
“If you want to win leagues then solidity is important.”
Conte was asked if he was annoyed at how Inter had made life hard for themselves towards the end, when Hamed Traore pulled a goal back with five minutes left.
“No, no, there are still lots of games left and every victory is worth six points,” the Inter boss suggested.
“By winning we put pressure on others and make it clear we’ll be contenders right until the end.
“Every game we win gives us satisfaction, you can see it in everyone’s eyes.
“We want to do something big for a club that hasn’t won for 10 years.
“It would be nice if it was us who ended the reign of those who have been winning for nine years (Juventus).
“There’ll be tension from this moment onwards, perhaps the ball will feel heavier for us whereas for our opponents it will be less heavy if they don’t have objectives to reach.”