There’s been a lot of surprising things about the 2019-20 season, but Romelu Lukaku sitting near the top of the Serie A scoring charts isn’t one of them.
Having spent two years at Manchester United, Inter Milan swooped in to sign the striker for £70million last summer after he was deemed surplus to requirements by Ed Woodward and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.
Romelu Lukaku had scored 17 goals in 25 Serie A appearances before football came to a halt last month
But were United wrong to get rid of him? There is certainly a strong case to suggest it.
If Solskjaer had adapted his team to accommodate the Belgian, he could have rewarded him in the only way he knows how – scoring goals.
As the striker celebrates his 27th birthday today, we at have made our case to suggest that Lukaku is perhaps one of the most underrated strikers of his generation…
At West Brom, Everton and now at Inter under Antonio Conte, Lukaku has always thrived on being the main focal points in teams designed for him to score goals.
This begs the question: why was his movement deemed substandard and his reading of the game ‘not good enough’ at United?
His failure to win over the Old Trafford crowd is perhaps down to the fans’ perception of how football needs to be played.
But the fact is, Woodward and Jose Mourinho knew exactly what they were getting when they signed Lukaku from Everton for £75m in 2017.
And instead of identifying what he can’t do, playing to his strengths should have been a priority for the hierarchy at the club.
Romelu Lukaku relished being the main man at Everton before he left to join Man United for £75m
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Lukaku became the quickest player in Inter’s history to score 20 goals in a season back in February.
His 17 Serie A goals in 25 appearances this term propelled the club to their most convincing title challenge in years, even if it had faltered somewhat before the coronavirus shutdown.
But it is the forward’s Premier League record that has been overlooked the most.
At United, he still managed to score at a rate a little over a goal every two games, illustrating the fact he bared a fair share of the blame for a team with deeper-rooted issues.
Quickest to 100 Premier League goals
Alan Shearer – 124
Harry Kane – 141
Sergio Agüero – 147
Thierry Henry – 160
Ian Wright – 173
Robbie Fowler -175
Les Ferdinand – 178
Michael Owen – 185
Andrew Cole – 185
Robin van Persie – 197
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink – 200
Romelu Lukaku – 216
Didier Drogba – 220
Darren Bent – 226
Wayne Rooney – 247
At 27 years of age, Lukaku has already scored over 200 goals in his club career – a phenomenal return which deserves a lot more praise.
Inter legend Ivan Cordoba recently questioned why United were prepared to part ways with him in the first place.
Lukaku is an extraordinary player, he said.
Manchester United did not understand the player’s potential and his last season was bad for him. In my opinion Lukaku is proving everyone to be a champion.”
There’s no denying he has a point.
Lukaku is one of just four active players who have scored more than 100 Premier League goals, along with Sergio Aguero, Jermain Defoe and Harry Kane.
He became the fifth-youngest player in history – and youngest ever player from outside the UK – to reach the milestone when he hit his century at 24 years and 322 days old, behind only Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Wayne Rooney and Harry Kane.
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Only 18 players have netted more goals in the Premier League than Romelu Lukakus 113 in 252 matches.
Yet he is never even mentioned in the same breath as those Premier League legends.
He scored more Premier League goals than the likes of Didier Drogba in a much quicker period – but which one is branded a great?
The striker, along with Paul Pogba, were seen as the culprits for Uniteds poor form, when in reality it was the brand of football that stopped him from flourishing.
Solskjaer and Woodward were happy to allow Lukaku to join Inter last summer
If you play a certain way, Lukaku will thrive, and that’s why he has become Belgium’s record scorer under Roberto Martinez with 52 goals in 84 appearances.
Martinez recently revealed his surprise, in an interview with The Times, that Lukaku is not better appreciated in England.
“Pundits have this knack of always highlighting what a player hasnt got or doesnt do,” he said.
“There are certain players we always highlight the good things they do, and for other players there are things we highlight they dont do. Rom fell into that category after his time at Chelsea.
He had a phenomenal couple of seasons at Everton, but the moment he left Everton [for Manchester United] there was almost that feeling that everyone was going to highlight when Rom didnt score, then it would be a negative about his performance.
Thats been surprising for me because Rom has outstanding qualities. Hes a goalscorer, he cannot be measured about the other things he doesnt do, like Diego Maradona couldnt tackle, couldnt be good in defensive set plays or couldnt use his right foot. Nobody would speak how many times Maradona used his right foot. Rom is a goalscorer. Thats his job, and what he does best.
Conte wanted to sign Lukaku at Chelsea but the club instead signed Morata from Real Madrid
Under Martinez, Belgium defend with a back three in order to have a swarm of attackers who seek the numerical advantage in the opposition half.
They play the ball around in attack before an opening arrives, a free man finally appears and Lukaku can sweep home.
At United, he was expected to drop deep and lay the ball off to the likes of Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial.
Those have never been his strengths.
It is believed Lukaku favoured a move to Conte’s Chelsea rather than Mourinho’s United in 2017 – but the Red Devils paid the bigger fee which was ultimately the deciding factor.
But it’s interesting to fathom how people would view Lukaku now had he teamed up with Conte at Stamford Bridge.
Seeing how he has performed for Inter, he might well have been on his way to being one of the Premier League’s most clinical finishers in history.
The truth is, United had one of the most prolific goal-scorers the Premier League has seen in recent years, they just badly misused him.
Conte and the Nerazzurri, however, are reaping the benefits of his talent.
Lukaku’s record compared to other leading strikers in Europe
Lionel MessiAge: 32Games Played – 750Goals – 638
Cristiano RonaldoAge: 35Games Played – 838Goals – 626
Robert LewandowskiAge: 31Games Played – 607Goals – 411
Luis SuarezAge: 33Games Played – 633Goals – 411
Edinson CavaniAge: 33Games Played – 585Goals – 383
Sergio AgüeroAge: 31Games Played – 658Goals – 378
Pierre-Emerick AubameyangAge: 30Games Played – 493Goals – 257
Romelu LukakuAge: 27Games Played – 448Goals – 210
Antoine GriezmannAge: 29Games Played – 495Goals – 199
Harry KaneAge: 26Games Played – 343Goals – 197
Alexandre LacazetteAge: 28Games Played – 391Goals – 175
Mohamed SalahAge: 27Games Played – 395Goals – 168
Sadio ManeAge: 28Games Played – 346Goals – 149
*Includes all club competitions