It was one of the most widely discussed and covered rumours of the summer, but last week Inter Milan officially confirmed the signing of Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United. The fee stands at €65m plus €10m in bonuses and a five per cent cut of any future transfer fee. It represents a big gamble on behalf of the Nerazzurri for a player who has drawn a lot of criticism over the past few seasons in England.
Many dismiss Lukaku as a poor player because of his flaws, most notably his movement, heavy first touch and inconsistent dribbling. He is often the topic of Internet ridicule with countless gifs and videos circulating social media to illustrate just how poor he supposedly is. However, Inter have taken the risk and it is one which, with some research, looks as though it will pay off.
You will hardly find a top striker in the world these days with no faults. However, there are few at the top level with a prolificacy in front of goal similar to Lukaku. In the 2018-19 season with Manchester United in the Premier League, the Belgian registered 57.1% of his shots on target, as per statistics from WyScout, whilst converting 21.2% of all his shots into goals.
These are unusually high numbers when compared with his peers and it shows just why it was so important that the club signed him this summer. Even before Mauro Icardi was stripped of his captaincy and frozen out of the team for a period last season, the Argentine’s prowess in front of goal was starting to falter and there is little doubt that the Belgian will be able to pick up the slack and rack up a large tally this season.
Lukaku is also a physical presence. He is both strong and good in the air, meaning that he should be an ideal fit for Conte’s 3-5-2 tactics, able to hold up play at the top of the pitch and win headers to score, as well as bringing other players into the game.
Speaking of chance creation, passing and assists were not Lukaku’s strong point last campaign for Manchester United. However, this could be down to the fact he was playing as a lone striker that relied on the forward as a poacher in a system that didn’t quite suit the role.
Antonio Conte and Romelu Lukaku have wanted to work with one another for some time now and this fact, however insignificant it may seem at first, can also play a huge part in the Belgian’s success at the club.
With Lukaku at his happiest, we should start to see his level elevate and, having just turned 26 in May, he still has a few years until he reaches his peak – meaning Conte has the time to impart knowledge and advice to the striker.
In all, Lukaku is an expensive risk for the Nerazzurri to take, but one that should certainly pay off.