Romelu Lukaku has to be the most misunderstood and underrated striker in world football right now. Standing at over 190cm, he is considered to be a player who is slow and who uses his strength to overpower defenders. However, the Belgian is more than that; just ask anyone in Serie A.
When Manchester United signed Romelu Lukaku in the summer of 2017 for £75 million, it raised many eyebrows. The striker had done well enough the season before at Everton, scoring 25 goals in the Premier League. However, many thought spending that much money on a player who had one good season was a rash move from the Red Devils hierarchy.
This price tag ultimately haunted Romelu Lukaku throughout his Manchester United career. Whenever he failed to score, question marks were raised on whether he was good enough to be in the starting line-up.
Furthermore, the rise of Marcus Rashford did not help his cause, and many fans and pundits were pushing for him to spearhead the attack instead of Romelu Lukaku.
When Romelu Lukaku finally departed Old Trafford last season, he had scored a total of 46 goals in 92 games for Manchester United across all competitions. Looking at that statistic, one wonders whether he deserved the criticism he endured in England.
The Belgian has always consistently found the back of the net across his career. Before moving to England, he scored 41 goals in 98 games for Anderlecht. In the Premier League before joining Manchester United, he scored 17 goals in 35 games for West Bromwich Albion and 87 goals in 166 games for Everton. All those goals show that he scored in every other game throughout his career.
So why was Romelu Lukaku subjected to such criticism?
Of the 28 goals that the former Everton man scored in 66 Premier League matches for Manchester United, only 1 was against the so-called "Big Six" clubs. He was considered more of a flat-track bully than someone the Red Devils could depend upon to score against the big clubs.
The 27-year-old was also criticised for his lack of assists. As a big powerful player, he was expected to have the ability to hold-up and bring his teammates into the play. However, he failed to live up to expectations, and his inconsistent performances also made fans lose faith in him.
Now with Inter Milan, Romelu Lukaku has scored 34 goals in 51 games. His partnership with Lautaro Martinez set Serie A ablaze, with the Nerazzurri narrowly missing out on the league title by a single point.
The striker certainly looks like a different beast from his days in Old Trafford. So what changed?
For starters, there is less pressure on him, despite the high price Inter Milan paid for him. He is also not the only source for goals, with Martinez chipping in with 21 goals.
Furthermore, the league change also helped. Serie A is not as fast-paced as the Premier League, with the emphasis in the Italian top flight being on shorter passing and technical ability.
Romelu Lukaku's strength and agility have come to the forefront in Serie A. While his strength allows him to hold off the tough defenders that Italian clubs have to offer, his agility means he can quickly turn to shoot or have a run at the goal. His pace is also a secret weapon since not many people think he is fast because of his physique.
Unlike in Manchester United where his worth was questioned constantly, Inter Milan wanted him; specifically Antonio Conte. The Italian wanted the striker even when he was the manager at Juventus and Chelsea, and that would also explain the high price the Nerazzurri paid for the Belgian to make their new coach happy.
Had the media and fans in England showed a bit more leniency for Romelu Lukaku, perhaps he would have flourished in the Premier League like he is doing now in Serie A.Published 19 Sep 2020, 12:04 IST