Becoming the striker Manchester United wished they had, entering Inter folklore after becoming only the sixth player to score in BOTH Milan derbies and bettering club legend Christian Vieri along the way… how Romelu Lukaku got back to his best
- Romelu Lukaku has become a man reborn this season with Inter Milan in Serie A
- The former Manchester United man has fired his club to the top of the table
- Lukaku became just the sixth player to score in both Milan derbies in one season
- The Italians spotted a digestive issue which has helped Lukaku lose weight
It is February. He is one season in to his life in Italian football, and Romelu already has 17 goals.
Recent form suggests he has no intention of stopping any time soon. The big Belgian is back.
While Manchester United were left scrambling around for a loan striker on deadline day, Lukaku was busy firing Inter Milan back to the summit of Serie A.
Romelu Lukaku is back at the peak of his powers and firing on all cylinders for Inter Milan
After drawing his Old Trafford chapter to a close last summer, Lukaku departed the Premier League with a point to prove. Far too often the powerful forward has been criticised for his bulky frame, and questioned for his movement and first touch.
Ole Gunnar Solkskjaer, too, had questions to answer. The Norwegian appeared to allow the £75million man to leave United far too easily, despite the club’s apparent lack of attacking personnel.
Now, with the Red Devils pinning their hopes on Odion Ighalo coming in from the Chinese Super League, Lukaku has banged in 17 Serie A goals and is hot on the tails of Cristiano Ronaldo and Ciro Immobile for the Golden Boot.
The tale of Lukaku’s resurgence begins with the one manager who wanted him above all others. Antonio Conte was left furious in the summer of 2017, when his then Chelsea side were pipped by United for Lukaku’s signature.
Conte had formed prospective plans around Lukaku, intending for the Belgian to be the focal point of the attack upon his Stamford Bridge homecoming. It never materalised.
Antonio Conte wanted Lukaku since his time as Chelsea manager, and never gave up hope
LUKAKU INTER STATS
Serie A games – 23
Serie A goals – 17
Serie A minutes per goal – 116′
Champions League games – 5
Champions League goals – 2
Coppa Italia games – 3
Coppa Italia goals – 2
Yet while Lukaku’s love affair with United would quickly fade, Conte never ceased to be an admirer. Upon being installed at the helm with Inter last summer, the Italian immediately made Lukaku his top transfer priority.
This time he got his wish. Conte would later admit: ‘I wanted Romelu very strongly when I was at Chelsea, even back at Juventus. I wanted him, now I can get to work on polishing the diamond.
‘I always said Romelu was a rough diamond that needed work to smooth him out. Lautaro Martinez is the same. These lads are 26 and 22-years-old, they are still young.’
True to his word, Conte has set about the polishing process and right now the diamond is gleaming.
Working upon both Lukaku as an individual and Martinez as a strike partner, Conte has crafted the most formidable front line in Italian football. The duo have 28 league goals between them, and counting.
Lukaku has featured in every single game this season for Inter, as well as eight times in Europe. The confidence which evaporated due to the inconsistent end to his United tenure – being benched for Marcus Rashford – has now returned with a vengence.
Lukaku’s Manchester United tenure saw a miserable end, benched for Marcus Rashford
With the goals rattling in and Lukaku looking fitter and sharper than ever before, parallels are being drawn with the striker’s period at Everton. At Goodison Lukaku was depended upon fiercely, and delivered as a result. His goalscoring record for the Toffees became prolific, winning him the Premier League Golden Boot along the way.
Attention to detail was a key objective for Inter, and this paid off handsomely after the club spotted something that United medical staff simply did not: Lukaku’s digestive system was malfunctioning.
A carefully crafted and completely revamped diet, along with a tailored conditioning programme, saw Lukaku incredibly shed over half a stone in just 12 days.
His new, nimble frame was beamed worldwide recently after the new talisman rattled the back of the net in the derby with fierce rivals AC Milan. Inter came back from the dead to win the clash 4-2, with Lukaku entering the record books as only the sixth player ever to score in two Milan derbies in a single season.
Bagging in the 93rd minute to seal the remarkable victory Lukaku ripped off his shirt and held aloft a corner flag, pointing it towards the misty Milanese skies. The scene was biblical.
Lukaku is said to now be spending less time in weight-based section of the gym and devoting more hours to all-round body exercises and powerful movement.
During his United days body criticisms got to Lukaku that much that he took to social media to respond. Posting a topless image of himself on Snapchat, Lukaku hit back at the trolls by display a rippling six-pack and olympian-esque muscles.
Yet those days seem long gone. Lukaku no longer feels a need to prove himself and strike back at each accusation thrown in his direction. Now the 26-year-old is simply letting his full-throttle football do the talking.
The criticism of his conditioning got to Lukaku so much at United that he publicly responded
With records tumbling, Lukaku became the fastest player ever to reach 20 goals for Inter Milan, needing just 29 games to reach the milestone.
To put the achievement into comparison, the great Brazilian Ronaldo needed 31 matches, Hernan Crespo required 36 and club legend Christian Vieri had to feature 38 times to reach the same mark.
As things stand Lukaku and Inter currently sit top of the Serie A table, ahead of rivals Juventus on goal difference.
Such has been Juve’s dominance upon Italian football, the Old Lady are going for a ninth successive title this season.
Times, however, are ripe for change. The stronghold of Turin is waning, as the balance of power shifts.
The future of Italian football may still be striped, but it’s looking increasingly likely to be in the colours of black and royal blue. Inter Milan, and Lukaku, are back among the elite once more.
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