The Italian sports betting world was taken by storm on Wednesday as news broke of Romelu Lukaku’s return to Inter Milan from Chelsea.
Although the Italian giants finished second last season behind rivals AC Milan, they’ve opened as title favourites for the 2022/23 Serie A season, largely due to the fact that they have their strong Belgian forward back. Lukaku helped the Nerazzurri win their first title in 11 years in 2021, bagging an incredible 64 goals in 95 games.
The Belgian has returned
On the 29th of June, Inter Milan officially announced via video that their star talisman Romelu Lukaku would be returning to the club on a yearlong loan from Chelsea, just one season after leaving the Nerazzurri. The footage showed club president Steven Zhang on top of the Inter HQ building with the striker, who declared “I’m back, baby!”, right on cue. He leaves London club Chelsea after what can only be described as a disastrous return to the Premier League for the Belgian, having only managed to hit the back of the net a meagre 8 times all season for the Blues, after signing for a club-record fee of £97.5 million.
“Happy to be back”
Lukaku has never been shy about expressing what the Italian club means to him, even if he’s contracted to another club. Halfway through his return season at Stamford Bridge, the number 9 dropped a bombshell in an interview with Sky Italy, stating that he’d “love to return to Italy one day”. Fast forward to today and the Belgian has got his wish. Speaking on his return to the Nerazzurri, he seemed genuinely happy with the outcome of his transfer, stating “I’m so happy to be back. It’s like coming home. I think my family and I had a really good time in Milan thanks to the people, the fans, and my teammates. From the first day when I arrived here, everyone helped me a lot, I’m really happy.”
There will be high expectations on the striker, especially from the Inter faithful, also known as the ‘ultras’, who have released a statement saying that he will need to prove himself once again after his ‘betrayal’ in leaving for Chelsea. The big number 9 doesn’t seem to be too concerned with the pressure, and will be looking to return to his best and brightest form that he enjoyed at the San Siro two years ago, “Inter have given me so much and I hope now to do even better than before.”
What went wrong at Chelsea
It’s no secret that Lukaku wasn’t up to standard in his sole season with the Blues. There is definitely a great divide between the fee that was paid for him and the resulting performances throughout the season from the tall number 9. After his revival at the San Siro in previous years, Blues fans were undoubtedly excited to have the striker part of their setup, but unfortunately, it just didn’t work out that way.
Eddie Newton, a former Chelsea assistant manager over three seasons, described the number 9 to Sky Sports, “Lukaku is a player who always likes to be facing the goal, not playing with his back to it. With his power and his pace, he’s very difficult to stop when he’s in his flow. But when he’s playing with his back to goal, it’s never been the best part of his game.”
He offered a few reasons as to why it may not have worked out this time around for the striker. He continued, “The way Chelsea play, they need their number 9 to be the focal point where they play it into him and he can set for them to play in behind. Especially when you’re playing against a low block. Chelsea plays teams who like to sit back a lot, which makes the role of the No 9 very important in terms of his ability to play with his back to goal, to bring others into play. It’s down to Lukaku to then score goals in the second and third phases but it’s why I don’t think it’s happened for Lukaku back at Chelsea.”
With the new footballing season a couple of months away, Lukaku will have plenty of time to settle into new (and old) coach Simone Inzaghi’s system again, with the overall goal of returning to his personal best form, and the club returning to the top of Italian football once again.
Lukaku will be joined by former Arsenal midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan as the new faces on the Nerrazzuri block, with goalkeeper André Onana and Albanian/Italian midfield protegee Kristjan Asllani also joining the fray. Alongside talents like Lautaro Martínez and Stefan de Vrij, there are a few valid reasons for fans and pundits to like Inter’s chances at a title this season.