Football: Lucescu digs his heels in at Inter

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The Independent Online
THE INTERNAZIONALE coach, Mircea Lucescu, is refusing to quit despite calls for his resignation after his team were eliminated from the European Cup by Manchester United.

United and Inter drew 1-1 on Wednesday at San Siro, but the Premiership leaders won 3-1 on aggregate to reach the semi-finals of the competition.

"I'm staying as long as I have the support of the club and the team," Lucescu said. "So far, there hasn't been a moment when I've thought `I can't go on' and, if it happened, I'd say so."

Admitting his own mistakes, he said: "If we are in this situation, my responsibility is clearly greater than the others. "I've had difficulties and I've made mistakes. There were times when I could have gone for a result but told the team to concentrate more on their game. And that was an error."

Ronaldo's extended absences with knee problems derailed Inter's entire season, according to the club's president. "Above all, we really missed him this season," Massimo Moratti said yesterday. "From his injury, many things have gone wrong. Ronaldo was too tight last night, and he was marked by two very strong players who beat him to the ball every time. It was still great of him to stay on the field as long as possible, but not even he has a magic wand."

Ronaldo has played sparingly while struggling with knee tendinitis. The Brazilian striker has appeared in 11 of Inter's 25 league games, scoring six goals. Last season, by contrast, he set a Serie A record for a foreign newcomer by finding the net 25 times.

Moratti also indicated that the long-rumored hiring of Marcello Lippi as coach will happen during the close season. The present incumbent, Lucescu, was brought aboard on an interim basis when Luigi Simoni was fired in November. Lippi quit as coach of Juventus last month after leading the Turin club to three Serie A titles in four years.

The Chilean striker Ivan Zamo-rano yesterday suggested he will stay with Inter despite the strong interest by Atletico Madrid to lure him back to Spain. "I have no intention of leaving Milan," Zamorano wrote in his weekly column in a Santiago newspaper.

He said the relationship he has with Moratti, with his team-mates and especially with the fans, "allows me to say that I will complete my contract" through next season, "and probably add one additional year."

But, Zamorano, who transferred from Real Madrid to Inter in 1996, added: "I am not closed to any possibilities, but I am not planning to move from here.

"I think too much importance was paid to the Atletico situation, but it never crossed my mind the idea of returning to Spain," Zamorano wrote in a column in another paper.

Diego Simeone will be out for three weeks after spraining his left ankle in Milan on Wednesday. The Argentine midfielder collided with Peter Schmeichel, and limped off the field in the 32nd minute.

"Simeone is in very bad shape," Lucescu said. "His ankle is swollen and I'm afraid we're going to have to do without him for a long time - at least three weeks."