Welcome to our Romelu Lukaku 2020/21 report card. As part of our post-season coverage, we’ll be dishing out grades and analyzing every Inter player’s season.
Inter’s Scudetto victory came about thanks to the efforts of countless sources; you could date the start of the Nerazzurri’s success all the way back to as early as Matias Vecino’s 81st-minute headed game-winner on May 23rd, 2018 against Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico. But one man in particular has proved his worth time and time again to lifting number nineteen. Playing apart in 40% of Inter’s total goal tally with 30 goals and 11 assists to his name, Romelu Lukaku was the driving force behind the third-best attack in the top five leagues of Europe. It may have looked like a bit too hefty of a fee at the time, but the €67 million that Lukaku cost has proven to be a small price to pay for the king of Milan.
Games Played: 44 (39 starts, 3,561 minutes)
What went right this season?
With a player of Lukaku’s caliber leading the attack, it only made sense to funnel play through the Belgian. He was a perfect fit for Antonio Conte’s system and found an ideal strike partner in Lautaro Martinez. Lukaku was set up to succeed and didn’t disappoint one bit. He led Inter in shots on target (55), shot-creating actions (3.6 per 90), touches in the penalty box, and had the most successful dribbles (47). Lukaku scored one goal every five shots and averaged a goal per 120 minutes; he also went seven for seven on attempts from the penalty spot. And as if that didn’t show how important he was to every phase of Inter’s attack, here’s his season heatmap (via sofascore). Lukaku was a menace to opposition defenders anywhere and everywhere in the final third. His build-up play opened up space and his quick combinations with Lautaro ruthlessly exploited any gaps. Lukaku’s physicality meant stopping him one-v-one was all but impossible without double-teaming him.
Lukaku’s consistency throughout the season was remarkable (the longest he went without scoring was five games) but perhaps his best stretch of form could be found when Inter met Lazio and Milan back-to-back. The Belgian’s three goals and two assists gave Inter all six points from the pair of games.
Lukaku went full beast mode for this assist pic.twitter.com/wnV0CYAaEa— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 16, 2021
His best attributes were on display in those one-hundred eighty minutes. Lukaku’s link-up play with Lautaro was especially lethal and both assists were to the Argentine, while his speed on the dribble left Marco Parolo and Alessio Romagnoli in shambles. With those wins the Nerazzurri went from second place to a four-point lead in first.
Lukaku becomes the first player since Romeo Benetti in 1973 to score in four consecutive Serie A Milan derbies pic.twitter.com/SPtKkzKqn6— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) February 21, 2021
What does he need to improve on?
Lukaku’s skillset is almost as complete as they come, but he’s still lacking an aerial threat to add to his repertoire. He scored two goals from headers last season but his aerial duel success rate is one of the lowest on Inter at 38.5%. The thought of a Lukaku that’s half as dangerous in the air as he is on the dribble must be a scary sight for defenders.
What role will he play in 2021/22?
Despite the usual transfer rumor circus, the 28-year-old has confirmed that he’s staying in Milan. How Lukaku adapts to Simone Inzaghi’s slightly different system from his predecessor could go a long way in determining what heights the Nerazzurri as a whole reach in 21/22. Lautaro has also been linked with a move away, so it’s possible Lukaku could have a new partner up top as well.