Inter Milan first in town, as fans wait to meet and greet

He was so concerned that he would not get a chance to meet his heroes that he decided to play it safe and splurge on booking a hotel room instead.

And not just any hotel room but one at the JW Marriott Hotel Singapore South Beach, where the rooms were going for about $350 a night.

Inter Milan fan Melvin Phuang was rewarded yesterday when Belgium’s Radja Nainggolan stopped to sign his jersey at the hotel lobby.

Nainggolan and his clubmates are in Singapore for this weekend’s International Champions Cup (ICC) matches.

The Italian outfit were the first of four European giants to arrive.

Inter will meet England’s Manchester United at the National Stadium on Saturday in a match that has long been sold out. The other match will feature Cristiano Ronaldo-led Juventus of Italy taking on England’s Champions League runners-up Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.

Phuang – along with two fellow Inter supporters, had booked the hotel room for at least two nights – first started supporting the Nerazzurri two years ago when they came for the ICC.

This year, he had hoped to meet his idol Mauro Icardi, who was the club’s joint-top scorer in the 2017-2018 Serie A season with 29 goals. Unfortunately for him, the Argentinian, who has had a long-running contract dispute with the club, has not been included in the pre-season squad.

NO ICARDI, NO PROBLEM

I’m a bit disappointed (over Icardi’s absence), but I’m going to frame Nainggolan’s jersey.

MELVIN PHUANG, who had his jersey signed by Belgium’s Radja Nainggolan.

Inter announced last Saturday that their former captain – he was stripped of the armband last season – had left their training camp in Switzerland and would not travel with them on their summer tour of Asia. They are also due to play Paris Saint-Germain in Macau on July 27.

Icardi’s absence in the pre-season squad was a letdown, admitted Phuang, but the 34-year-old’s mood was brightened considerably when Nainggolan, a player he had been looking forward to meeting, signed his jersey.

Phuang said: “I’m a bit disappointed (over Icardi’s absence), but I’m going to frame Nainggolan’s jersey.” Phuang was one of about 20 fans to greet the club as they made a low-key arrival at the hotel.

Apart from a few calls from fans for photographs and autographs when the players alighted from the team bus, it was generally an inconspicuous affair.

While the players appeared to be tired from their flight from Switzerland, some like Nainggolan, who sported an iridescent bag, stopped to take wefies and sign several autographs for their supporters.

Newly appointed coach Antonio Conte, who had previously come to Singapore as coach of English Premier League club Chelsea, cut a stoic figure as he headed straight into the hotel.

Having taken over the helm after Luciano Spalletti left in May, he will be looking to add to his tally in Singapore after his players gave him his first win as Inter coach on Sunday when they beat Lugano 2-1 in a pre-season friendly.

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