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Friday August 14 2020
Lukaku the leader Inter needed

Romelu Lukaku is already more of a captain, centre-forward and leader of Inter than Mauro Icardi ever could be, writes Owen Diana.

After Atalanta’s heart-wrenching elimination, Inter are the only Italian team still standing in Europe. That is largely down to Romelu Lukaku, who has been absolutely brilliant in his first season with the Nerazzurri.

The burly Belgian has silenced his critics with aplomb, but his contribution to this Inter side goes far beyond the impressive goals-to-games ratio. His commitment to the cause stands in stark contrast with the final stages of Mauro Icardi’s stay in Milan and symbolises just how far the club has come in the last year.

In the dying embers of last summer’s transfer window, bad-boy Icardi was finally shipped off to PSG on loan. The Argentine international had tested the patience of fans, teammates, and directors on various occasions, with the situation coming to a head when the striker was stripped of the captaincy after refusing to travel for a Europa League match against Rapid Vienna in February 2019.

Although Icardi’s antics ultimately precipitated his exit from San Siro, his quality on the field was undeniable. Lukaku had big boots to fill, and there were reasons to doubt whether he would be up to the task. Even though the Belgian was an established Premier League hitman, his best years were in the blue of mid-table Everton and not the famed red of Manchester United. After being weighed down by the astronomical fee the Red Devils forked over for his services, how would Lukaku handle the pressure of being the most expensive signing in Inter’s history?

Yet, the 27-year old has more than lived up to the sky-high expectations. He found the back of the net twice in his first two outings and has only gotten stronger since. His 23 Serie A goals were only bettered by Cristiano Ronaldo and Ciro Immobile, and he has forged a telepathic understanding with Lautaro Martinez up top.

The differences between the two strikers could not be more stark. While Icardi ghosted in and out of games, refusing to track back or press opponents, Lukaku is making sure his strength is felt all over the pitch. It’s no wonder Antonio Conte wanted a player with such extraordinary work-rate, the complete opposite to Icardi, as everyone saw for PSG against Atalanta.

It remains incredible to think Icardi was named captain of Inter, when Lukaku is already acting more like a leader than the Argentine ever did. Romelu has already proved his ability to shout at teammates in several different languages – a handy skill – but also praise them in post-match interviews, shrug off personal success and focus on the team targets.

During difficult moments of a game, Inter players can look to Lukaku. That’s not just as a centre-forward who can hold up the ball and ease the pressure, but as someone who will track back and fight for every ball. Lautaro Martinez still gets too downhearted when something goes wrong, so he can learn from someone like Lukaku who will always keep fighting, being ready for the next chance and make that one count.

The Belgian’s Europa League showings are further proof that he is a world-class forward. Four goals in four knockout stage matches have carried Inter within touching distance of their first trophy since they lifted the Coppa Italia in 2010-11. For all his talent, Icardi never brought the Nerazzurri near any silverware.

While the South American’s poor attitude proved detrimental, the determination and courage of Inter’s new Number 9 inspired the Milan giants to greater heights. The deplorable reaction of ultras group L’Urlo della Nord to the racist chants Lukaku suffered at the hands of Cagliari supporters back in September gave the Belgian ample reason to give up on the club that had bought him less than a month before. Instead, Lukaku has continued to produce at an elite level while speaking out against racism.

With Lukaku in such fine fettle, Inter must be considered favourites to reach the final in Cologne. Once there, a potential meeting with his former employers would present the perfect opportunity to cap a dream debut campaign with a title. The Belgian’s skill has brought the Nerazzurri to the brink of glory. However, his work to heal the wounds Icardi opened up is arguably more important.

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Have your say...
@ Marco Branca - Rubentus fail in Europe because they cannot buy referees, you really are bad at trolling by the way.
on the 17th August, 2020 at 11:44pm
I MISS JUVE IN SERIE B: From Serie B to the CL Finals in 9 years and yet inter can't even make it past the Champion's League group stage in 9 years ....not enough time ? how hard can it be if Juventus can go From Serie B to the CL Finals in 9 years !!
on the 17th August, 2020 at 6:03pm
Lukaku definitely has by far exceeded my expectations when he joined. Like the writer said, his contribution to this Inter side goes far beyond the impressive goals-to-games ratio. I hope this goes on into future seasons even if Martinez is sold, which is looking more likely.
on the 17th August, 2020 at 5:06pm
@ Marco branca - Almost forgot - look! a toddler in a Liverpool kit, run and hide fast!
on the 15th August, 2020 at 12:09pm
The real sign of how well Lukaku has done is the silence from the Icardashians. If he had flopped, we would never hear the end of Icardi's 124 goals etc.being so difficult to replace.
on the 15th August, 2020 at 12:08pm
@Franco... Good riddance, thank you! you absolutely don't have to repeat same thing, every once a while, over and over sgain. Nobody really cares except @I MISS MARCO BRANCA AT INTER.
on the 15th August, 2020 at 7:43am
@I MISS MARCO BRANCA AT INTER... can you please explain how a 36 time winner can't do anything in Europe? Also, when both Milan clubs combined have equal numbers of Scudettos, have won 3 times more European trophies than Juve? What's going on Italy? BTW, you still have nightmares with Inter? I suggest you better to stay away from every single Inter article, it's burning you from inside.
on the 15th August, 2020 at 7:35am
Top 5 pure CF in the world. Lewandowski, Kane, Aubameyang, Benzema, Lukaku (in no particular order except for Lewa who is obviously the best CF in the world).
Well perhaps on par with Suarez & Aguero (both declining).

I’m grateful for Icardi’s goals during our difficult times. If not for him, maybe we’d be midtable club b/w 2014-2018. He’s a different type of CF, a goal poacher, fox in the box, similar like Filippo Inzaghi. Limited but great CF nonetheless. Sick with his wife & the drama though
on the 14th August, 2020 at 8:07pm
Franco: Who can blame you from walking from a club called Inter ! The last time Inter won the scudetto the year after Juventus won it was the 1952-53 season and to be clear, that's 67 years !!! Also keep in Mind that Juventus have 36 scudetti (on paper that is) so there has been plenty of opportunities ! With Juve winning 9 straight, history shows that if anyone wins the scudetto from Juve it will not be Inter !!!!
on the 14th August, 2020 at 6:42pm
Why was Icardi stripped of the captaincy? Not sticking up for your teammates when your wife demeans them repeatedly on national TV & in the media. This is not the type of behaviour that should be tolerated & is esp. damaging from the captain. Suning's approach has been needed forever. Spalletti was as responsible as Icardi and they are both gone. No one is above the team. (That includes Conte). Inter won't evolve over night but this season has been a success beyond expectations.
on the 14th August, 2020 at 6:41pm
I was an Inter fan for ten years before walking away from the club for a variety of reasons. In sum, the club culture has changed and was no longer the team I fell in love with, nor the team my father cheered for in the 1960s. (Don't get me started on Conte.) ... But I am glad Lukaku is flourishing in Milan as I think he is an awesome talent with a decent head on his shoiulders who will no doubt be the cornerstone of this club for years to come. I look forward to watching his hilites.
on the 14th August, 2020 at 3:21pm
I wholeheartdly agree that Lukaku has been a cut above Icardi, especially off the pitch. It's a relief to finally not have to worry about what our CF or his wife/agent is saying when not on the pitch.
Lukaku still misses some chances that I wish he would just bury, but his work rate in other areas almost make them forgiveable.
Icardi, IMO, was a better finisher in the box, but he too became wasteful in the latter days of his Inter career and alas, his antics were too much to bear. Long live Luka
on the 14th August, 2020 at 3:04pm
While I agree that Lukaku has had an excellent first season, this article seems more about taking a shot at Icardi. Icardi refused to play because he was stripped of the captaincy, not the other way around. Icardi had his problems at Inter but he is a much better finisher and plays a different way, I would have liked to see them both in the same team but then I'm not a big fan of Lautaro.
on the 14th August, 2020 at 12:47pm
He does get ‘stuck in’ and can hold the ball really well. For this he is worth it. His finishing is not the best but because he is always committed and hard working he will get something sooner rather than later. He seems like an intelligent person (his Italian is great after just 1 year) and likeable.
I can’t help but feel that Inter will make a mess of the semi final though. It would be in character.
on the 14th August, 2020 at 8:12am
hats off to lukaku. Coming into the team, I wasn't sure how he would go. However his performances speak for themselves. People talk about not stepping up in big games - he still does his part but also has a lot more attention and usually covered by 2 defenders.. Hence why Lautaro or someone else finds space to score! Opposition defenders have stated, hes impossible to play on, the ultimate praise a striker can receive!
on the 14th August, 2020 at 2:14am
Inter reaching the final and beating man utd with 2 goals, brace from Lukaku. That would be an absolute happy ending, considering all the negative comments he suffered from the fans, club and even his team mate, especially that Luke Shaw’s comment welcoming Lukaku in Europa. That guy deserves an answer.
on the 14th August, 2020 at 1:36am

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