Romelu Lukaku couldn’t make his intentions of moving to Serie A any more obvious. After claiming this was a league he had always dreamed of playing in, he went on to say it will be an exciting place to be next term. Heaping praise on Antonio Conte as “one of the best coaches in the world,” the Belgian forward has certainly laid down his marker that he expects to be in Milan next season. How would he fit in the new Nerazzurri system and would he be able to replace Mauro Icardi?
One thing is certain, Conte knows his own mind, he has already started to implement his 3-5-2 system throughout the Primavera team and the youth systems. He is a man who knows the way he wants to play and how to get the job done. The imminent arrival of Edin Dzeko in Milan has also shown that the former Juventus boss is wasting no time in getting the pieces of his puzzle in place.
Ultimately, the biggest problem might be in removing one of the pieces that has lodged itself in the wrong spot and is refusing to let go.
Providing all the necessary pieces are moved in time, Inter could be left with a very potent strike force next season. This is certainly the view of Christian Vieri, who said Lukaku “can be devastating, but someone like that ought to be scoring 30 goals per season.” Can the Belgian finally fulfil his potential at Inter?
Conte’s system has always relied on a target man. When he coached Italy, he looked to Graziano Pellè for this, at Juventus both Mirko Vucinic and Fernando Llorente did this job, and at Chelsea he used Diego Costa and Olivier Giroud to this effect. Both Lukaku and Dzeko would be able to provide this service, but the 26-year-old Belgian could flourish under the high pressing system and more direct style of play.
The Manchester United centre-forward would certainly find Conte’s system similar to the one he plays in at a national level and this switch could see him return to his best form. He has been criticised this season for 15 goals in 45 games, but his overall tally of 42 goals in 96 appearances for the Premier League club isn’t horrendous.
The style of play under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer hasn’t suited him and he has slipped down the pecking order. Even his national team Coach Roberto Martinez has said that it is important for him to find the right club next campaign.
It’s arguable that if Luciano Spalletti had still been in charge, then Lukaku would have had less chance to prosper. This was simply because the supply from midfield and wide areas was not ample enough and it was left to the skill of Icardi to create something out of nothing. Now however, with Conte’s style being more forceful, quick and direct, Lukaku’s pace and strengths will be played to.
Martinez has said that Lukaku’s decision-making leans towards assisting teammates rather than looking for his own benefit. These characteristics would appeal to Conte, as he puts the team ethic first, something he won’t see in Icardi.
Lukaku will certainly add to the new ‘Conte version’ of Inter and it is for this reason that the Nerazzurri are working tirelessly to get the deal over the line. For those who frequent San Siro, there is now a chance to witness a more progressive and more aggressive system that would see Lukaku at its very heart.