Inter head coach Antonio Conte believes Alexis Sanchez is in his best condition since he joined the club, while the Chilean has compared himself to a “caged tiger”.
Sanchez followed up his goal in the Nerazzurri’s weekend win over Genoa with a vital brace in the 2-1 triumph at Parma on Thursday.
The result moved Inter six points clear of Milan at the Serie A summit after Stefano Pioli’s side were held to a 1-1 draw by Udinese on Wednesday.
Sanchez spent last season on loan at Inter from Manchester United, but only managed four goals across all competitions.
He is up to five this term despite largely playing second fiddle to Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez.
While acknowledging that those two are still his preferred partnership in attack, Conte stressed the importance of having a firing Sanchez waiting in the wings.
1 – Prior to Alexis Sánchez, the last Chilean player to score 2+ goals in a Serie A game for Inter was Iván Zamorano, in September 1999, just against Parma. Footsteps.#ParmaInter pic.twitter.com/JkXLee39EN
— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) March 4, 2021
“He is in the best condition we’ve ever seen him at the moment,” the Inter boss told Sky Sport Italia.
“He knows only hard work will take him to a certain level, and now Romelu and Lautaro know that Sanchez is right behind them too.
“It’s important for us to create these situations with competition for places.
“Don’t forget for a year-and-a-half we had to carry on with just Lukaku and Lautaro, nobody else. We had Sebastiano Esposito last season, he’s now in Serie B at Venezia.”
Sanchez agreed with Conte’s assessment of his condition and said he is eager for more playing time.
“I am a player with a lot of experience, the coach trusts me and I am happy,” he said.
“I always want to play and be at 100 per cent. I feel like a caged lion and the more I play, the better I feel. That’s always been the case since I started playing football.
“I love this sport. I love playing, and the more I play, the better I feel. We’ve all made sacrifices, worked hard, watched videos, studied, trained and every day learned something new.”
The win over Parma means Inter have now claimed 59 points or more from the opening 25 games of a Serie A season for the fourth time in the three-points-for-a-win era.
They won the title in the previous three (2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09), yet Conte is refusing to get carried away and warned his side against losing their focus.
“We are in a very good position, certainly a vast improvement from last season, but we also know every game is a battle and we can drop points against anyone,” he added. “That is why we must never underestimate any opponent.
“We want to do our best. If our best means we are here at the end of the season, we’ll be very happy and proud, because it’ll mean we’ve made incredible leaps forward in a very short period of time.”
Inter are next in action on Monday when they host Atalanta.