Could Romelu Lukaku's Move To AS Roma Make Them Serie A Title Contenders?

The Belgian's loan from Chelsea could prove pivotal to Mourinho's men
13:00, 30 Aug 2023

Romelu Lukaku is on the verge of joining AS Roma after a rollercoaster summer that has seen him stay close to the headlines. First, the former Chelsea striker managed to upset Inter Milan fans and his former teammates by entertaining a move to the troubled Juventus. With the prospect of being left out in the cold at parent club Chelsea looming, the Belgium international has instead found a buzzer-beater of a loan transfer to Jose Mourinho’s side.

The move suits both parties. Chelsea get a reported £5 million loan fee and a further £7.25 million of wage contributions for a player who has been a financial albatross since returning to Stamford Bridge two years ago. Roma get a player who has found Serie A his happiest hunting ground in between sluggish seasons in the Premier League.


Given how desperate Chelsea were to offload their misfiring striker, it is hard to imagine Lukaku as a sought-after talent. But that’s exactly what he was as summer dawned. Inter were keen to welcome him back after he returned to the club on loan last season. Lukaku’s exploits in helping lift the Serie A title in 2020/21 had not been forgotten at San Siro. But a breakdown in communication proved costly.

Lukaku endured an injury-hit campaign last year. In his absence, Edin Dzeko became the trusted strike partner of Lautaro Martinez. When manager Simone Inzaghi picked Dzeko to start the Champions League final ahead of Lukaku, who had rallied with ten league goals, the player was perturbed. It was a snub he wouldn’t forget and one he would return in kind, refusing a move back to San Siro and pursuing a move to bitter rivals Juventus.

That transfer didn’t come off and instead Lukaku will be lining up for Roma, ironically Dzeko’s former club. The enthusiastic reaction as he arrived in Rome yesterday, greeted by thousands of screaming fans, will help offset the bitter rebuke he has suffered from Inter ultras. Banners mocking Lukaku have been displayed at Nerazzurri games this season.


As well as the adulation from Roma supporters, the move makes sense for another reason. Mourinho coaxed one of Lukaku's better seasons out of him in 2017/18. The Belgian managed 27 goals in 51 games as United finished second in the Premier League under ‘The Special One’. Mourinho’s sacking and his replacement by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is what spelled the end of the player’s brief Old Trafford stint.

Lukaku is the second A-list signing in as many seasons for Roma. The Giallorossi signed Paulo Dybala last summer and the ex-Juventus man has rewarded them with 18 goals in 38 games. It is easy to envision the deep-lying Dybala dovetailing nicely with Lukaku, who is a traditional number nine. 

What the move could do is invite heightened expectations. Mourinho’s Roma era is categorised with his portrayal of the club as underdogs. It jives with the way Roma’s fans have often viewed themselves, as brave soldiers facing much larger, more wealthy armies. But with a squad that now contains the likes of Lukaku, Dybala, Houssem Aouar and Leandro Paredes, are they really that far behind the title-chasers?

Each of the last four seasons has seen a different winner of Serie A. Juventus, Inter, AC Milan and Napoli have each lifted the crown. With Juventus, the previously-dominant dynasty, still reeling from numerous sanctions the floor is open to challengers. Roma are yet to win this season, with a draw and a loss in their opening two games, but the addition of Lukaku could make all the difference. This is the player whose 24 league goals propelled Inter to their first title in over a decade. Is it too much of a reach to consider Roma challengers given the talent they possess?

Mourinho would bristle at the thought, lest it puncture his siege mentality. Ask the Portuguese firebrand and he would say securing the club’s first Champions League qualification since 2017/18 is the priority. But there is no single dominant force in Italian football these days. No Manchester City, Bayern Munich or Paris Saint-Germain hoovering up titles. Serie A is the most competitive of the major leagues. So why, with Lukaku, Dybala and the rest, can Roma not compete?

However remote a title challenge is, Lukaku has still been signed with success in mind. This is a club who has reached a European final in each of the last two seasons. Hopes are high they can continue this level of performance while also refining their game in the league. Lukaku will be central to that. Unwanted at Chelsea, hated at Inter. The love of the Romans could be just the fresh start Lukaku needs.

as roma to beat ac milan: 13/8*

*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change

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