Romelu Lukaku has taken Serie A by storm in his first season with Inter Milan, but is anyone in football really surprised?
I have an ardent Manchester United fan as a friend and colleague here at SBOTOP and he certainly isn’t! Since his £74m switch from the Premier League club last summer the strong, fast and lethal striker has terrorized Italy’s normally rock-solid defences, scoring at will as Inter challenged seriously for the title for the first time in a decade.
In his opening campaign at the San Siro Lukaku finished third in the race for the Capocannoniere, behind Lazio’s prolific Ciro Immobile and Juve’s Cristiano Ronaldo. 23 goals from 36 games was a fine return, a rate of 0.7 goals per game with a shot accuracy of 63 per cent.
The 6ft 3in striker is pretty much the complete package, scoring with his head and either foot, and when he starts an explosive run towards goal there is usually one outcome.
Lukaku looks settled at last
Inter fans are delighted they have got their man, but it’s been a long journey for the Antwerp born player. In common with another former Red Devil, Wayne Rooney, the Belgian hitman was a powerful unit as a boy; and he made his Belgium Premier League debut at the age of just 16 and 11 days. His 33 goals in 73 games for Anderlecht prompted Chelsea to shell out £12m for the youngster, but he only played 10 games for the Blues, instead heading out on loan, first to West Bromwich Albion and then to Everton.
He plundered 17 goals from 35 games with the Baggies in 2012/13 and then 15 from 31 the following season at Goodison Park. The Toffees were impressed enough to splash out a club record £26m to take Lukaku to Merseyside and he kept up his 1:2 goal ration with 53 goals from 110 games in the next three seasons.
The £75m fee which took Lukaku to Manchester United in 2017 made him the joint fifth most expensive player in the history of the game. And it was all going well in his first season at Old Trafford. While the team struggled to find its identity under Jose Mourinho, Lukaku knew exactly hat he was about and repaid his fee with a tally of 27 goals.
But the following season he became unsettled when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Mourinho, he was in and out of the team and finished with a heavily reduced return of 15 goals. Inter boss Antonio Conte swooped and Lukaku prospered. Following his £74m move to the San Siro he scored with his very first shot for I Nerazzurri in an opening day 4-0 victory over Lecce, and he hasn’t looked back.
His goal in the Europa League final took his season tally to 34 goals from 51 games, equalling a club record set by the great Ronaldo, back in 1998.
Inter are genuine challengers once more
Lukaku’s goals have fired Inter to a new level; their Serie A season came down to a shoot-out for second place with free-scoring Atalanta, but for much of the season I Nerazzurri ran Juve close at the top of the table.
Conte went back to the Premier League in the January transfer window; and a big feature of the Serie A 2020 news, at the start of the calendar year, was the arrival of attacking midfielder Christian Eriksen from Spurs and experienced wing-back Ashley Young from Manchester United. The break in football due to COVID 19 seemed to benefit the Old Lady as she took the Scudetto back to Turin. But Inter came close to silverware.
In the Europa League final Lukaku scored Inter’s opener and then was unlucky to divert a Sevilla effort into his own net to give the Spaniards a 3-2 victory. So upset was the Belgian that he refused to accept his runners-up medal. But his side wouldn’t have been there in the first place without his goals, after he scored in 11 consecutive Europa League games.
So what next for Lukaku?
Well, the pre-season Serie A 2020 betting odds have Inter as the clear challengers to Juventus in the Old Lady’s quest it make it ten successive Scudettos. I Bianconeri will start at odd of around 1.90 with Inter at 3.00 and Atalanta and Napoli in pursuit.
The frightening thing for defences in Serie A, and around the world, is that, at 27 years of age, Lukaku is just coming into his prime and has six or seven seasons to come at the very top of the game.
Belgium is FIFA’s top-ranked team in the world and Lukaku’s 52 goals in 84 international appearances are a big reason why, but Serie A defences will be more concerned by the four years he has left to run on his contract at Inter Milan!
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