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9. Romelu Lukaku

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Conte is as short term as Mourinho 

I'm sure Conte would have done a better job at Utd with that sort of budget.


Perhaps but if we had backed Conte a little more that season, things might have turned out differently and he may well have stayed on.


It would have just delayed the inevitable. Conte can't keep quiet when things aren't going his way.

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I'm afraid not a lot of you will have seen the interview (let alone be able to understand a single word they say ). So here's the summary of the most important things that have been said: He's feeling

Big words from Drog.

Wrong shirt at the wrong moment Romelu

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2 hours ago, Tomo said:

@Jason @OneMoSalah

Just to add a bit of further context to my point, Inter are apparently very close to signing Ashley Young :doh:

To muddy the waters even more, I've seen a few times on Twitter tonight that apparently Conte wanted him at Chelsea and we approached United on deadline day in the summer of 2017 before we went in for Zappacosta. 

There are no words...

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1 hour ago, OneMoSalah said:

That is madness because you see Inter being linked with Vidal, Eriksen and Giroud who are a much higher quality of player than Young. Surprised Moses hasnt been talked about either then. Maybe Conte wants to recreate the Man United team with Sanchez, Young and Lukaku.

Its almost as if he's trying to make up for toying with him them while he was here.

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8 hours ago, Tomo said:

@Jason @OneMoSalah

Just to add a bit of further context to my point, Inter are apparently very close to signing Ashley Young :doh:

Cheers Antonio for making me look like an idiot! :rant:

If he's so keen on clearing up United's mess, can he also do the same with us!?

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5 hours ago, LAM09 said:

It would have just delayed the inevitable. Conte can't keep quiet when things aren't going his way.

Just curious. Want to see the alternate timeline!

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31 minutes ago, Jason said:

Cheers Antonio for making me look like an idiot! :rant:

If he's so keen on clearing up United's mess, can he also do the same with us!?

Donkeybaka already knows two key things

1. How to get to the San Siro

2. How to put on an Inter shirt!


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2 hours ago, Jason said:

Cheers Antonio for making me look like an idiot! :rant:

If he's so keen on clearing up United's mess, can he also do the same with us!?

He wants Giroud and Alonso. 

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14 hours ago, NikkiCFC said:


I know it is strikers on there


toss Messi and CR7 on that chart all else looks like shite, lololol


I think they will both end up passing the current all-time (official games only) leader Bican in career goals by a wide margin

Messi MIGHT have a shot at 1000 (depends how long he plays, as I think he can play longer than CR7)

he has 716 in only 16.5 years

I think he can play at a truly top (compared to regular players, not a Messi at 25yo level) until he is 38

if he maintains a 40 goal a year rate until the end of 2025/26 (ie before he turns 39yo), that will put him within 20 or 30 or so goals of 1000 (and he may likely have higher seasons than 40 between now and then as long as he stays healthy)

he has AVERAGED 58 goals a season for the past 10 full seasons for club and country

he had 55 last season, all comps

Plus he might play a couple more years back in Rosario until he is 40ish

I would not bet against him, especially if Barca sorts out the team and sacks the turgid Valverde (maybe they go for Pep 2.0!, or Xavi)

the truly crazy thing is that he never truly got cracking until 2008-9, after he had already turned 21yo

his first 4 years of topflight football he only had a total of 49 (41 total for Barca, and 8 for Argentina Sr team)

Mbappe already had 116 goals for club and country before he turned 21 three weeks ago, so almost 70 more at the same age. Messi also has had 13 years where he played at least 50 games for club and country (9 just counting Barca and had 49 games played for them in 2015-16) Some of those years over 60 games played per season, 73 games and 73 goals scored in 2011-12 (which is insane, but if you go by calendar year, it is even more cray for 2012, 91 goals in 69 games!!!<<<<< I cannot see that being topped for decades, if ever, unless Mbappe somehow pulls it off, which is simply almost impossible, or maybe some kid who isn't even born yet, who knows, lolol)

Mbappe has one season so far where he played at least 50 games. (None just counting PSG and/or Monaco)

List of footballers with 500 or more goals in official matches for club and country



allllllllllllllllll that said

if you count ALL games played

NO ONE is remotely close to my number one player of all time


1375 games

1284 goals

almsot all over a 21 year stretch (5 came in 13 benefit matches after he retired)

2c9b6fb7d0d86b24b0228754cb997f9a.pngPele Wallpapers, 50 HD Pele Wallpapers Download Free - 2000x1616 ...

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Where did it all go wrong for Romelu Lukaku at Chelsea?



Romelu Lukaku is staring longingly at the Stamford Bridge pitch and is in an emotional mood.

“Give me a ball and I will be playing here for five hours,” he says. “What a stadium. The day I’m playing here, that will be the single time in life that you would see me cry. I’m going to succeed. I’m not dreaming. I’m going to play here someday I’m sure.”

This short clip from Lukaku’s first visit to Chelsea’s ground as a young teenager in 2009 can still be found on YouTube and serves as a constant reminder of what might, or perhaps should, have been.

Whenever the governing bodies decide this year’s “summer” transfer window is going to open, Chelsea will once again be looking to buy a big-name centre-forward. It has been highlighted as an area to strengthen on an almost annual basis throughout the Roman Abramovich era but has been of even greater importance since Diego Costa left the club in 2017.

Lukaku seemed destined to be Chelsea’s long-term solution when he joined from Anderlecht in 2011 for a deal worth up to £18 million. As a huge fan of the club and their talismanic striker Didier Drogba, someone whom he has always been likened too, a long marriage looked a certainty.

At 27 years old, he is now approaching his peak, yet is already regarded as one of the best frontmen in the world with an impressive record of 210 goals from 448 senior appearances for seven different teams. He has also found the net 52 times in 84 matches for Belgium.

There is only one place he has failed to make any kind of impression: Chelsea. His record of no goals in 15 outings more than demonstrates that. How did this seemingly perfect match fail to deliver?

“It was not a secret, we knew it was his dream to play for Chelsea,” Anderlecht’s head of academy Jean Kindermans tells The Athletic. “Drogba was his idol, an example for him. His move to Chelsea was based on emotion and as a young boy he was dreaming about Drogba and playing at Stamford Bridge.”

Kindermans has helped bring through a lot of great talent at Anderlecht — Youri Tielemans, Dennis Praet, Leander Dendoncker and Adnan Januzaj to name just four — but he will never forget the emergence of Lukaku.

“He was special. He was an amazing, big, strong fast player. In every competition, he would score, whether it was one, two or three. In every international tournament, he was one of the best strikers. He was the best striker we’ve had in the last 15 years.”

Encouraged by his father Roger, a former Zaire international, Romelu joined local side Rupel Boom at the age of five. He joined Lierse six years later and soon came to the attention of Anderlecht’s academy after scoring 121 goals in 68 matches.

His reputation continued to grow with another 131 goals in 93 matches in Anderlecht’s youth set-up and he made his professional debut in 2009, aged 16.

As he progressed through the ranks, pictures of Drogba and the Chelsea team were plastered all over his bedroom walls. He was inspired by watching the side Jose Mourinho led to five major trophies between 2004 and 2007 and was a subscriber to the club’s media channel, Chelsea TV.

With Chelsea’s vast scouting network employed to scour Europe for emerging stars, it is no surprise Lukaku’s name came on their radar very quickly.

“Chelsea were following him for many years as a youth player,” explains Kindermans. “They were scouting many Belgium teams, not just Anderlecht, and they had very good reports about Lukaku.”

Championing the acquisition of Lukaku was Abramovich’s influential advisor Piet de Visser and Michael Emenalo, who initially joined Chelsea as a scout in 2007.

A first attempt was made in 2010 after Lukaku finished leading scorer in his first full season in the Belgian top flight. After getting a telephone number from former Anderlecht defender Vincent Kompany, Drogba rang to persuade him. But father Roger blocked the purchase because he wanted his son to have one more year of first-team experience at Anderlecht.

Chelsea went back 12 months later and an initial sum of £13 million plus a series of add-ons was agreed. The fact that Fernando Torres, Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou, Daniel Sturridge and Drogba were already at the west London club didn’t put him off.

“Nobody could give him advice about it,” Kindermans admits. “He was in love with Chelsea. When you’re in love with a club or a woman, everyone can give advice but you’ll go through with it anyway even if it is a bad situation.

“At that moment, his father was not his agent, but they were very close and discussed all the big decisions. They both felt it was the right moment to leave Anderlecht and to go to the club that had his heart.

“As for Anderlecht, we felt that he had arrived at a new stage of his career and he had to leave. We weren’t sad. Also at that time, Anderlecht survived by selling one or two players every season. It was a normal situation for youth players to be sold for millions. Was it the best step for his career? Today we can say it would have been better if he’d left for a smaller club where he was sure to play.”

For a transfer to be a success, it can come down to timing. In Lukaku’s case, the moment of his arrival couldn’t have been much worse.

The presence of five players ahead of him in the pecking order was bad enough, but the deal was finalised after the Premier League season had already begun. The speed in which it was done took him by surprise, too — he didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Anderlecht properly or even his brother Jordan, who was in the club’s academy at the time and now plays at left-back for Lazio.

More significantly, it also meant he missed the entire pre-season with Chelsea. That is never ideal, but even more so when a new manager is at the helm.

Andre Villas-Boas was given the task of revolutionising the Chelsea squad but it was pretty obvious that Lukaku was not part of his reformation from the outset.

Villas-Boas left him out of the Champions League squad and his only three starts under the Portuguese came in the League Cup. That statistic was never going to improve once results soon deteriorated. There was increasing talk of dressing room unrest and a quick dismissal. Indeed, Lukaku often found himself in the reserves, away from the first-team picture entirely and he subsequently complained about the way he was spoken to.

An interview in 2012 with Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws detailed the level of angst. “There is one man who took a lot from me: the previous trainer (Villas-Boas),” Lukaku said. “I will never forgive him for that.

“I had to play on the left, then another time on the right. You don’t develop that way. I know Villas-Boas was also under pressure. But he didn’t have to treat me like that.”

Lukaku’s sorry predicament didn’t go unnoticed back at Anderlecht, either. “We were concerned because he was losing time,” Kindermans continues. “I know how much Romelu likes the pitch. He likes training sessions, to train and to work with the ball.

“We were worried about the fact he was not playing and how he was going to develop. We know from young players, you can’t develop if you can’t play.”

Roberto Di Matteo, who replaced Villas-Boas in March 2012, made him feel more a part of the group. There was a first Premier League start in the final match of the campaign at home to Blackburn, where he registered an assist for John Terry’s opener, and he was given the opportunity to travel with the squad to Munich for the Champions League final.

But it was too little too late as far as Lukaku was concerned. As a club insider revealed: “He knocked on Emenalo’s door and said, ‘Next season I will score 20 goals somewhere else, I want to go (on loan)’.”

He told Di Matteo of his decision on the first day of pre-season training and loan offers came from several clubs including Fulham, Aston Villa and West Brom. It was the latter who sealed a deal.

An impressive 17 strikes in 35 Premier League games was better than any Chelsea player managed in 2012-13 (Frank Lampard was their top scorer in the league with 15). He thrived under the direction of former Chelsea assistant manager Steve Clarke. Surely he’d proven his point and would be leading the line for his parent club? Enter, Jose Mourinho.

Another clear message to the contrary was sent as Mourinho spent the summer of 2013 pursuing Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney. When that fell through, the club acquired veteran Samuel Eto’o from Anzhi Makhachkala.

Lukaku had actually enjoyed a positive pre-season under Mourinho and was initially feeling upbeat. But that faded as reality set in. He was in a bad place mentally when coming on as a late sub against Bayern Munich in the UEFA Super Cup Final and he missed the decisive penalty in the shootout.

Lukakus tame penalty is saved by manuel Neuer (Photo: Getty Images)

The following day his agent at the time, Christophe Henrotay, filed a transfer request. It came as a surprise to Chelsea and did not go down well with Mourinho, who felt this behaviour justified his suspicions that Lukaku was not mentally ready to play for a big club.

But sources insist the pair’s relationship was better than many thought at the time. When a loan switch to Everton was formalised, Mourinho sent the youngster a message wishing him good luck.

That’s not to say it was perfect either. When Lukaku suggested to the media he’d been forced out, a defensive Mourinho fired back in a press conference: “He’s a young boy who likes to speak. But the only thing he didn’t say is why he went to Everton on loan. That’s the only thing he never says.”

For a second successive season, Lukaku scored more league goals than any Chelsea player (15, one better than Eden Hazard), but it was not enough to convince Mourinho he should lead the line. Chelsea bought Costa the following summer. The deal had long been mooted and Lukaku’s patience had run out.

It is understood he first met with Atletico Madrid to discuss a move. There was an obvious link, given Henrotay also represented Thibaut Courtois, who spent three seasons on loan from Chelsea at the La Liga club.

But his mind was set on Juventus. Coach Antonio Conte had made it pretty clear how much he wanted him. Unlike at Chelsea, Lukaku felt his ability was appreciated and admired.

However, hopes of that switch collapsed when Conte left Juventus to take the Italy job. Tottenham were keen, but the relationship between the London rivals meant that was never going to materialise.

Everton, who wanted to make the loan deal permanent, were the beneficiaries and a sale in excess of £30 million was formalised. No buy-back option was put in place.

Mention the summer window of 2017 to any Chelsea fan and they struggle to contain a grimace. It is a sore subject with Conte, who was a year into his Chelsea reign, too.

This was the final occasion when Lukaku could have got his Chelsea career back on track. It is what he wanted for a long time, too. Finally, the pathway was going to be cleared for him to be the main man.

Costa’s souring relationship with Conte meant he was heading for pastures new. As early as January, Lukaku had been earmarked as Costa’s replacement. With only Michy Batshuayi for company at Stamford Bridge, he would face little competition.

The spell at Everton had continued to go well — he’d scored 87 goals in 166 games across four seasons — but Champions League football proved elusive and the opportunity to challenge for silverware regularly seemed minimal. A new contract was offered, but the player’s mind was already made up to leave. As far as Everton were concerned, it was just about getting the best price possible.

He had remained in contact with Emenalo even after leaving Stamford Bridge for good three years earlier. The closeness of their bond was plain for all to see following a league game at Goodison Park in April 2017, when the two embraced and shared warm words in the players’ tunnel.

The west London club felt it was only a matter of time. “They were convinced he was coming back,” a Chelsea source says. “He was telling them he was coming. He saw Courtois (by that stage Chelsea’s No 1) while holidaying in the USA over the summer and when they parted, he said, ‘See you next week for pre-season training’.”

It is believed Conte, just as he had when Juventus coach, had been in touch too. Then all of a sudden the striker couldn’t be reached and ended up at Manchester United instead. Conte was furious. Emenalo was mystified. So how did Chelsea miss out?

There were a few factors. A major one was Lukaku’s decision to leave Henrotay in 2015 and ask for Mino Raiola to represent him instead. Indeed, after losing out to Manchester United, word came from people within Chelsea that a refusal to pay an agent’s fee of £15 million to Raiola was decisive.

The sum was vast but Chelsea haven’t been opposed to paying representatives huge amounts of money to conclude a deal — deals for Hazard, N’Golo Kante and Ross Barkley all included big agent fees.

As an insider explains: “Romelu found out Chelsea didn’t want to do business with Raiola, who pushed him to Manchester United. Lukaku realised Conte was not getting what he wanted, that’s what also convinced him to go to United. It was a warning sign that things were once again not clear cut at Chelsea, just like before. It’s a hypothetical, but if Henrotay was still his agent, I think he would have been a Chelsea player.”

Manchester United had another trump card — Paul Pogba. The midfielder had struck up a close friendship with Lukaku from when they first met in 2012. Both youngsters found themselves out in the cold for their respective clubs during a 3-3 draw in February 2012. They had something in common — a frustration over a lack of opportunities.

Fast forward to the summer of 2017 and Lukaku and Pogba, also represented by Raiola, were sharing a villa in Los Angeles. Inevitably the Manchester United midfielder used the time together wisely to discuss the merits of Old Trafford.

Lukaku’s surprisingly strong relationship with Mourinho came to the fore, too. His former Chelsea coach was now in charge of Manchester United and on the phone promising him the chance to lead the line. This was important: all the stories in the press centred on Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata being Manchester United’s main target. Mourinho told Lukaku to ignore it because he was the player he wanted.

Coming from a man whom Lukaku still referred to as “boss” and someone from whom he’d always wanted to earn praise, it was very persuasive.

But there was also the key matter of negotiating with Everton. Manchester United had an advantage here, too, offering Wayne Rooney as part of the deal.

Financially, Chelsea couldn’t compete. They came in with a late offer of around £75 million but Manchester United were willing to pay that, plus Raiola’s fee and give Rooney to Everton. Chelsea turned to Morata, who was their back-up option, to fill the void.

Neither were considered a great success at their respective clubs, but Lukaku outscored Morata over the next two seasons in England (42 goals to 24). Morata didn’t even see out his second campaign in west London as he was loaned out to Atletico Madrid in January 2019.

Last summer, Conte finally succeeded at the third attempt to sign Lukaku, taking him to Inter Milan, where he has thrived. His critics still claim the majority of goals come against lesser opponents, yet even if that were the case, it could be argued Chelsea could do with such an asset now when you consider they have lost to Southampton, Bournemouth and Newcastle this season.

So does Lukaku have any regrets that the fantasy of starring for Chelsea never became a reality? According to those closest to him, no. The player himself has admitted that if he had rejoined them in 2017, he would have been under a lot more pressure than at Manchester United. He also enjoyed the challenge of something new.

One wonders though if he occasionally watches back that video clip of himself as a youngster — looking and talking so longingly about his surroundings — and wonders what might have been.

Kindermans believes Lukaku still benefited from his Chelsea bond, just not in the way that was planned.

“Nearly 10 years later, we can’t say it was a bad decision,” he says. “Romelu is one of the best strikers in the world and has played for some of the biggest clubs in the world. The difficulty to impose himself at Chelsea gave him the intelligence to know that he had to change. He learned from it.”

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  • 2 months later...

How Romelu Lukaku is ‘doing something extraordinary’ at Inter Milan



We all know how much defenders struggle to move Romelu Lukaku off the ball. La Gazzetta dello Sport can’t shift him from the front page at the moment either.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday the Inter striker was the newspaper’s cover story and, no doubt sensing he’d stolen all the ‘Luka-King’ headlines again with goal number 31 of the season against Bayer Leverkusen, the Belgian, magnanimous as ever, wanted to ensure one of his team-mates got the recognition he felt he deserved.

In flawless Italian, Lukaku told Sky Italia, “For me, (Inter midfielder) Nicolo Barella was the Man of the Match. The way he’s been playing in recent weeks, he’s just been getting better and better.”

It isn’t the first time Lukaku’s generosity of spirit has come to the fore.

One of the most memorable moments of Inter’s year was in December when Lukaku relinquished his duty as the team’s designated penalty taker to give 17-year-old Sebastiano Esposito the chance to score his first goal in professional football. The Neapolitan playmaker seized it with both hands and became the club’s second-youngest scorer of all-time behind the late Mario Corso. His celebration, a red-faced tearful hug with his mother, won’t be forgotten for a long time. Had Lukaku shown a selfish streak and put the penalty away himself, he would likely have ended up with his first hat-trick in Italian football but some things are more important.

Inter coach Antonio Conte appreciated the gesture, although the former Italy manager wasn’t so pleased when Lukaku tried to help his strike partner Lautaro Martinez out of a goal drought in July by doing the same thing — only for the out-of-sorts Argentinian to miss from the spot. If Martinez had scored, the game would probably have been over. Instead, the 10 men of Bologna came back from behind to win and Conte was furious.

Overall though, Lukaku’s leadership qualities have vindicated the irascible persistence with which Conte pursued him a year ago almost as much as the goals. “Only I know what I went through to get him here,” Conte said. “Trust me when I say that. It was not a walk in the park.”

Inter smashed their transfer record to sign him, but months of hard work would have gone up in smoke had Paulo Dybala agreed to join Manchester United rather than stay put in Turin. The Athletic understands Juventus had the framework of a deal in place to swap the two of them.

Prestige competition for Lukaku’s signature meant Inter still had to pay full whack: €65 million (£59 million) with another €10 million (£9 million) to come in performance-related add-ons. Lukaku’s intention was always to join Inter but, as Conte indicated, there was the risk the clubs wouldn’t be able to reach an agreement.

In the end, the one they shook hands on was worth it.

Where do we start with Lukaku’s numbers?

The former Anderlecht striker is on course to match or even surpass Ronaldo, whose 1997-98 debut season was the most prolific of any player in Inter history with 34 goals across all competitions. That campaign ended with victory in the UEFA Cup final — which is a good enough excuse to re-watch the Brazilian’s mesmerising footwork that night at the Parc des Princes.

“It was the first final I ever saw,” Lukaku told another former Inter striker and the player he’s compared to most in Italy — ‘The Emperor’ Adriano, a hero of his childhood.

Lukaku’s first season could yet end the same way as O Fenomeno’s all those years ago. Against Getafe, he equalled Alan Shearer’s record by scoring in eight consecutive Europa League/UEFA Cup games. Against Leverkusen, he broke it — and he might well have broken poor Edmond Tapsoba too.

How to describe Lukaku’s performance against one of the game’s brightest up-and-coming centre-backs? It called to mind a few of the scenes from The Last Dance when Michael Jordan hears an opponent slight him and says, “And I took that personally.”

Lukaku has played with that kind of drive all season. “He has been on a mission,” his brother Jordan tells The Athletic. Hasn’t he just?

It would perhaps be an exaggeration to say Lukaku had a point to prove after last season at Manchester United. “One bad year can happen to anybody in their career,” he told his good friend and former Arsenal striker Ian Wright over lockdown.

But Lukaku evidently felt he needed to correct some misconceptions. While on tour with United in Australia last summer, he posted performance data from a training session showing he was the second-fastest player on the team behind Diogo Dalot, a reminder that people should maybe think twice before calling him a slouch. A selfie of his chiselled physique — “not bad for a fat boy” — then followed in the wake of stories he was overweight.

The critics haven’t entirely lost their voice but finding the net on your Serie A debut, doing the same in successive Milan derbies and scoring 70 per cent of your league goals in away matches will go some way to keeping them quiet. “Watching Lukaku at the moment… He’s a top player, but he was already a top player at Everton and Man United, so it’s nothing surprising,” Sassuolo winger and former Chelsea team-mate Jeremie Boga tells The Athletic. “I think Conte’s style suits him perfectly.”

Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Inter Milan

Lukaku’s time at Old Trafford was split between being used front on his own (55 per cent of minutes played), playing in a two (21 per cent) or as part of an attacking trio (24 per cent). At Inter, he’s spent 98 per cent of his time alongside either Martinez or Alexis Sanchez. Playing more time in a single formation — Conte’s trademark 3-5-2 — has meant less disruption, and the results have been excellent. What has emerged is one of Europe’s most dangerous strike partnerships, as the “LuLa” double act with Martinez has racked up 50 goals this season.

How does it work? Well, Lukaku doesn’t pressure all that much off the ball. Of all players in Serie A this season, only Andrea Petagna presses less, and it’s marginal — 7.29 pressures per 90 minutes for Petagna, 7.31 for Lukaku. Even Zlatan Ibrahimovic (7.9) is doing more pressing off the ball. That’s quite the drop-off from Lukaku’s time at United, where last season he was applying pressure to opponents 14.7 times per 90 minutes.

If these figures fall below what you expect from a striker in a system as intense as Conte’s, it isn’t for a lack of fitness or desire. Sources tell The Athletic that Conte wants his players to clock up 11km (almost seven miles) on their activity belts in training, even on light days, and Lukaku is as lean as ever thanks to meal plans drawn up by nutritionist Matteo Pincella.

Instead, there are tactical reasons for Lukaku’s low pressing numbers.

Martinez applies the pressure and uses his energy to hassle from the front. Eighteen pressures per 90 puts him in the 70th percentile for all strikers, similar to the likes of Genoa’s Andrea Pinamonti and, tellingly, his Inter back-up Sanchez in his small sample of minutes. His role is slightly more pivoted towards doing the defensive work — as noted by his pressure figures, as well as tackles and interception statistics, which sit above Lukaku’s lower numbers.


Although both are elite at getting touches in the box, Lukaku is better at holding the ball up and not turning it over (look at the “turnovers” spike below), involving himself in the build-up to goals (“open play passes”) and also creating chances for team-mates (“open play xG assisted”).


“He’s a really good crosser,” his brother Jordan, a defender with Serie A rivals Lazio, says. The epitome of that came in Prague in November’s Champions League group game, when Lukaku played a delightful pass with the outside of his left foot for Martinez to volley home.


His expected assist numbers sit above his actual assists, meaning that if it weren’t for poor finishing from team-mates, he would have at least double the two assists he’s registered in the league.

Lukaku has also been key in the meticulously choreographed build-up schemes Conte designs to draw opponents in, then beat the press and release his strikers to play against unsettled defences.

For those kinds of situations, it helps that Lukaku can score all kinds of goals. He has always been a versatile finisher, capable of shooting with both feet while also being decent with his headed chances too. That’s the same at Inter. See his shot maps below. The first is his left foot and is peppered with efforts from all over.


Next is all of his right-footed shots, where he’s aiming for the bottom right-hand corner.


And finally, with his head, right from the middle of the box.


Put the ball where Lukaku wants it, though, or he’ll let you know about it.

“Victor! Fucking hell!” he shouted, when the right pass didn’t arrive from Victor Moses away to Parma in June. The naturalness with which he cursed Cristiano Biraghi in Italian after a similar situation showed off his growing vocabulary too. “He puts you under pressure,” Jordan says. “But it’s OK.”

This is the mindset Conte wants. Too often this season, he has lamented the lack of a truly ruthless edge at Inter — a murderous bloodlust to kill games. Lukaku was guilty of missing a couple of chances in the December defeat to Barcelona that relegated Inter from the Champions League to the Europa League and there are other opportunities he wishes he could have back. But that’s a striker’s life.

The manager’s personality radiates off Lukaku perhaps more than anyone else on the team. Conte dearly wanted him and sometimes everything else is immaterial. That’s what a player needs most — to be wanted. When the Mister singled him out in a video analysis session after the underwhelming 1-1 group-stage draw at home to Slavia Prague in mid-September, he took it how it was intended — as motivation to improve. The mentality it has forged is there for everyone to see in Lukaku’s reactions to those wayward crosses from Moses and Biraghi. He believes, as Conte does, that it raises standards and makes players better. The aim is to lift everyone around him.

The last week has demonstrated that even Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo cannot win matches on their own — or at least, not as easily as they once could. Football remains a team game and the right cast is essential to any Oscar-winning performance.

“Romelu is doing something extraordinary,” Conte said in Dusseldorf ahead of Monday’s Europa League semi-final against Shakhtar Donetsk. “But he is supported by the team. I’m happy for him because he deserves it, but he has to thank the team for putting him in a position to express himself in a way he has never expressed himself in the past.”

Lukaku has never been better.

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  • 1 month later...

While he definitely found his form in Italy - he looks a lot fitter too - his performance against Sevilla was reminiscent from United's days.

He actually started the game well enough by finding space on the right, which led to the PK and goal; then his game dropped like a rock culminating in that bizarre own goal, which pretty much sealed the deal.

Now, one can say that it was purely accidental, but I'd argue that it is something more likely to happen to players which lack skill; players who lack quickness and as consequence have a poor first touch.

I'm torn regarding Lukaku. While I wish he had stayed and given a fair shot with us, I also have a hard time trusting players who lose form so easily (yes Eden too). 

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  • 1 month later...

Lukaku is one of the best strikers in the world. No, really



Romelu Lukaku scored twice in Inter Milan’s 3-2 victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach on Tuesday evening. It was a brace that not only gave the striker 11 goals in 12 matches this season but also gave his team a fighting chance of making the Champions League knockout stages. The Belgian is once again straddling the line between good and great players, but is certainly in possession of a goalscoring record that deserves to be up there with the world’s very best.

If you were to imagine a dinner party held by all of the strikers considered “world class” (a term that everyone recognises as important, but nearly everyone has different criteria for), then certain guests would immediately spring to mind. Robert Lewandowski would be exchanging bon mots with Cristiano Ronaldo; Luis Suarez and Sergio Aguero would trade old war stories while admitting their knees aren’t quite what they used to be; Harry Kane would be there, getting confused as to why Karim Benzema is talking about “drip” while Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland would be discussing the new breed about to take over.

And then Lukaku would turn up slightly late, raising a few eyebrows with his appearance before Zlatan Ibrahimovic says he invited the Belgian and introduces him to Edinson Cavani. “Rom, meet Edi!” the Swede might say, before reeling off Lukaku’s striking record and his status as the all-time leading scorer for Belgium’s national team. “Cavani, you would have loved training with this boy at United. Speaks six languages and yet still a gym rat.”

If you forgive the indulgent mental exercise above, this has been the way of Lukaku for much of his life. Entering rooms, raising eyebrows and having someone ask for his invitation.

When he was aged 13, it would be the parents of opposition players at youth football games raising their eyebrows, and asking to see his birth certificate, so unconvinced were they that Lukaku could be as physically developed as he was.

When he was 16, he raised eyebrows on Anderlecht’s under-19s coaching team when he promised to score 25 goals for the team by December.

And when Jose Mourinho gazumped Antonio Conte to bring the Belgian to Manchester United for £75 million, eyebrows were raised as to whether Lukaku would be the man to take United to the next level.

Sometimes Lukaku fails to quell the curious eyebrow but more often, he succeeds. But while the Belgian can be inconsistent in his play, he is forever consistent in his need to change those raised eyebrows.

“Let me tell you something — every game I ever played was a final,” wrote the striker for The Player’s Tribune in 2018, a piece in which I was involved in my former job. “When I played in the park, it was a final. When I played during break in kindergarten, it was a final. I’m dead-ass serious. I used to try to tear the cover off the ball every time I shot it. Full power. We weren’t hitting R1, bro. No finesse shot. I didn’t have the new FIFA. I didn’t have a Playstation. I wasn’t playing around. I was trying to kill you.”

To borrow a descriptor from the author Brian Phillips, Lukaku is probably the biggest “No, Really!” player plying his trade in Europe’s top five leagues at the moment. “No, really! Lukaku is a great striker!” we would argue, as you scoff at our dinner party story and inform us in the comments of Lukaku’s goalscoring record against big teams. “No, really! Lukaku is more skilled than he looks!”, we’d counter, bringing up his dummy for Nacer Chadli’s injury-time winner against Japan in the last 16 of the 2018 World Cup, before you mention his clumsy placement for his own goal that decided the 2020 Europa League final. “No, really! Lukaku’s passing ability goes under the radar and he’s capable as a quasi-10 or operating on the right”, we’d defiantly say, before the Serie A watchers among you say his partnership with Lautaro Martinez has its limits and can leave Conte’s side a little one dimensional.

Lukaku’s individual goalscoring accolades, coupled with his playmaking ability, age (27) and high footballing IQ would suggest there’s still one more major transfer move left in his career if he so wishes. Particularly if he wants to add to his (rather bare) trophy cabinet — the Belgian league title is the only team honour he has won so far.

Such is the nature of a superclub like Manchester United, it is important to clarify this piece does not intend to argue Lukaku should have stayed at United, nor that United are missing the Belgian’s presence (although it was fascinating that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer mentioned Cavani’s aerial ability gave his side an option they’d not had since Lukaku’s departure after the victory over Southampton). Lukaku’s United stint led to 42 goals in 96 games, several memes suggesting his touch was so bad it looked like was playing in jeans, and a singular performance against Paris Saint-Germain that not only helped confirm Solskjaer’s status as permanent United manager, but also helped confirm Marcus Rashford as the talisman for this current United group.

Lukaku is a player who has fought and clawed for his place at football’s top table, but he’s also not afraid to hand the mantle to someone else when it’s not his turn (the cynical part of your brain is allowed to think Lukaku gave that last-minute penalty responsibility to Rashford as he didn’t trust himself to finish it).

Lukaku is also a player Mourinho hoped to fashion into Didier Drogba Mk II, but the Belgian’s efforts in the gym in the hopes of becoming a target man left him too big and too slow for the cutting edge of the Premier League (a failure for anyone to diagnose a digestive issue didn’t help). These things happen and Lukaku’s time at Manchester feels a reminder that transfer signings can rely on timing just as much as talent. The fact that other great “No Really!” players in Europe include Angel Di Maria and Memphis Depay hints at the turbulent nature of Manchester United post-2013.

This week also saw Bruno Fernandes winning his fifth player of the month award at the club out of the eight for which he has been eligible — an unorthodox club sometimes needs the right kind of unorthodox player to make it work. The Portuguese player is fondly thought of at United right now for his ability to put the “fun” in “dysfunctional organisation”.

Two weaknesses of Lukaku’s game — his erratic first touch and his sometimes-profligate shooting — have also been weaknesses of United legends, including Wayne Rooney and Andy Cole.

There was a time where United could accommodate footballers who occasionally had their talents flow in and out of them like a tide. There was space where onlookers could look at what a player can provide a team rather than what they are less capable of. But as some clubs’ situations change, so too does the context in which we frame player talent. One only has to look at the constant revaluations of Fred to see the push-pull in evaluating what a player does well.

So what does Lukaku have to do to cross over from good to great striker? Is it consistency? A handful of “big-game moments”? An improved silverware collection, both in personal and team terms? Or perhaps it can be us, the football viewer, changing the way we perceive the Belgian? To paraphrase an Arsene Wenger quote on the dangers of player evaluation in 2008, perhaps Lukaku is the same man, but ‘it is only the perception of his talents that changes”.

Perhaps one day, perception of Lukaku’s talents may match the output his talents seem readily capable of.

Lukaku is one of the best strikers playing in the world today. No, really.

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  • 2 months later...
  • Jase changed the title to 9. Romelu Lukaku

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