ANTONIO Conte knew all along what Romelu Lukaku would offer him. As Chelsea manager, he’d made the signing of the Belgian striker a priority only for Manchester United to win the race for his signature in the 2017 summer transfer window. Alvaro Morata, signed in Lukaku’s place, just didn’t perform the same role.
Two years later, when Conte took charge at Inter, he once again demanded Lukaku join him with the Belgian making the £74m move from United. The last two seasons have vindicated Conte, with Lukaku firing the Nerazzurri to their first Scudetto in over a decade. Alongside the likes of Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the 27-year-old is now revered as one of Inter’s greatest ever goalscorers.
Now, there is speculation that Lukaku could be on his way back to the Premier League, with Chelsea and Manchester City both expected to be in the market for a new centre forward this summer. Inter’s perilous financial situation means the Belgian may be available, potentially making him an attractive option for suitors unable to sign Erling Haaland and Harry Kane.
It’s easy to see why Lukaku would be an attractive option for many. He has truly flourished in Italy, scoring 44 goals in 66 Serie A appearances. Lautaro Martinez has been the perfect partner for the Belgian with the pair considered the most devastating front two in the European game right now. While his numbers are impressive, Lukaku has shown himself to be much more than just a goalscorer. Conte has unlocked so many areas of his play.
That Pep Guardiola is reportedly open to the idea of Lukaku joining City this summer reflects how he has changed perceptions of himself. At Manchester United, Lukaku was frequently targeted for his supposedly poor first touch and one-dimensional threat. Neither Jose Mourinho nor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer knew how to harness the Belgian like Conte has since.
Inter Milan best Serie A player 20/21
Big Chance Created: Lukaku
Dribbles per game: Lukaku
Most throughballs: Lukaku
Most shots on target: Lukaku pic.twitter.com/GlHt3rQQpw
— Asolo (@AsoloMufc) May 2, 2021
Lukaku, however, doesn’t need a Premier League return to prove himself. He is now a Serie A winner widely viewed among the best in his position. After years of struggling to find the right club and the right manager to bring the best out of his game, why would Lukaku be in a hurry to sever his ties with Conte?
Inter may have to cut their cloth this summer amid financial concerns, but they will be well-placed to dominate Italian football for years to come if they can keep their current core together. In Alessandro Bastoni, Nicolo Barella, Martinez and Lukaku, the Nerazzurri have a spine stronger than anything else at the top end of Serie A.
Now 27, Lukaku is at the point of his career where he must chase trophies. He can’t afford to waste another few years as part of a project, like he would be at Chelsea. Therefore, the case for Lukaku to stay at San Siro for at least another season to reap the rewards of what Conte has built around him is strong.
The Premier League was something of a torture chamber for Lukaku. His potential was always obvious, but very few in England actually grasped what sort of player he was. Roberto Martinez was the first to truly demonstrate how Lukaku could be used in a more dynamic way, building his Belgium team around the striker. Conte clearly saw this and has followed Martinez’s lead by installing Lukaku as his main man at Inter.
Lukaku has more to lose than gain by retracing his steps. Some in England will never accept him as an elite level centre forward, so why would he waste time trying to convince them otherwise? Lukaku would be wise to spurn the advances of Chelsea, City or any other Premier League club this summer. He has what he could ever want or need in Italy.