Prior to joining Inter Milan, Antonio Conte had Romelu Lukaku on his radar as he knew that the Belgian would improve his team vastly and bring results. When Conte was manager of Chelsea, he had requested for Lukaku and Virgil Van Dyk the season after they won the Premier League, yet neither arrived.
Lukaku was always highly regarded by the Italian for his ability to score goals, show great strength in his play and make decisive runs. However, Chelsea came up short and didn’t deliver on Conte’s requests.
“I asked for two players and we were very, very close after we won the league,” Conte said to The Telegraph.
“One player was Romelu Lukaku, the second player was Virgil Van Dijk.
“These two players were very, very close.
“We were in contact every day and I always said that with these two players we would improve my team by 30 percent.”
Lukaku played extremely well under Conte for a second straight season and has reached his full potential. He looked much more confident in his play, stepped up in their key matches in Serie A and was their focal point in the attack. Lautaro Martinez, showed poor form during a stretch of the season, where he was inconsistent with scoring and disappeared in big matches. However, Lukaku managed to strive well in these areas and provided key goals to win matches.
In his first season with the club, Lukaku finished with a total of 34 goals in all competitions. He was effective throughout the season as he made efficient runs, was physical against defenders and showed the ability to finish his shots.
Lukaku followed up with another impressive season for the Nerazzurri and showed just how important he is to Inter. He finished second behind Cristiano Ronaldo with 24 goals and established himself as being one of the best strikers in Serie A this season. He contributed eleven assists in Serie A as well and was Inter’s focal point in their attack.
Before Lukaku had joined Inter, he came off a mediocre season with Manchester United in 2018/19 where his goal production had dipped and his performances were inconsistent. During that season, he felt he wasn’t protected by Man United and felt mistreated. A change of scenery was needed for the striker.
“If you’re happy, you find a way, it doesn’t matter if you’re on the bench or starting,” said Lukaku.
“But nobody told me that was the situation, so I thought for two-three weeks to analyze, see all this s—t coming out in the media. Who leaks it? Not me. Not my agent. I see it on my phone come out of nowhere.
“I told them it’s not good for me to be at a place where I’m not wanted. We’re not stupid. They consider us dumb, but we are not dumb, we know who is doing leaks and stuff. I told them, you can’t be working like this, it’s better for me to go now.”
Lukaku saw his playing time decreased when they fired Jose Mourinho and replaced him with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. The newly appointed manager preferred Marcus Rashford upfront and, as a result, Lukaku started less matches and was used more as a substitute. Numerous factors on and off the pitch led to a dip in the Belgian’s production.
“It is [Paul] Pogba, it is me or it is Alexis [Sanchez]. It’s the three of us all the time. They have got to find somebody to blame,” Lukaku said on being a scapegoat for Man United’s failures.
“I put my hand up, like this year I don’t I think I was the only one playing bad. A lot of people were playing bad but they had to find the culprit.”
Prior to the 2018/19 season, he amassed 120 goals in 217 games and averaged .55 goals per game. During his time with Everton and Man United over a stretch of four years, he had proven to be one of the best strikers in the Premier League and scored at a prolific rate.
His past experiences have allowed Lukaku to mature and become a leader for Inter. He has brought a new dimension to Inter with his style of play compared to Mauro Icardi, who was more of a poacher. Lukaku provides great physicality, can make runs in behind the defense and has brought a great attitude to the dressing room.
The partnership of Martinez and Lukaku has worked well as they have two different approaches to the game yet complement each other. Martinez prefers to make runs and is attack-minded towards the goal whereas Lukaku has a strong hold up, likes to play with his back towards the goal, and creates space for Martinez.
Inter winning the Scudetto this season and earning their first trophy since May 2011 has been partially due to the success of Lukaku. He stepped up this year and gave fans and management hope that the goal that Conte set out to achieve could be accomplished this season. Credit to Conte who had always wanted Lukaku in his lineup and has been able to revitalize the Belgian’s career.
Lukaku has drastically improved the quality of Inter’s play, scored key goals and has helped them achieve their main goal, a Scudetto.