Antonio Conte expressed his admiration for Romelu Lukaku on Friday, but Inter Milan's manager stopped short of saying the lack of progress during the team's reported pursuit of the Manchester United forward has been frustrating.
Lukaku has been linked with a move to Inter throughout the summer transfer window, with the Italian side reportedly launching a €70-million (£62.7 million) bid earlier this week that United rejected.
Ahead of a meeting between the two squads on Saturday in the International Champions Cup in Singapore, the former Chelsea manager praised the Belgian international and said he doesn't want to offend United by speaking about one of their players.
"I think frustrated is a big word," Conte told reporters, according to The Telegraph's James Ducker. "Lukaku is United’s player and this is the reality. You know very well that I like this player but also in the past when I was Chelsea’s coach and tried to bring him to Chelsea. I think today Lukaku is a player with United. This is the reality.
"I think that in this moment if you’re talking about a player from another club it’s right to not talk about Lukaku because we have great respect for United.
"As I said before, I like this player and consider him an important player for us to have a good improvement but at the same (time) there is a transfer market. We know very well which is our situation at the moment and we will see what happens but for now Lukaku is a United player."
Lukaku added to the uncertainty over his future as a Red Devil by sitting out yet another training session on Friday. He's missed the team's matches in Australia against Perth Glory and Leeds United.
United have previously placed an €83.5-million (£74.9 million) price tag on the 26-year-old, according to the Guardian's Fabrizio Romano. However, Ducker believes the Premier League side's valuation is closer to €100 million (£90 million).
To fund the transfer, Inter will likely need to sell Mauro Icardi. He was sent home from the Serie A outfit's preseason tour earlier this week after it was confirmed that the Argentine forward doesn't have a future with the club, which is also the case for Radja Nainggolan.