The Unlovable Romelu Lukaku Seeks Affection In The Arms Of Juventus

The Belgian is the striker no club claims as their own
09:00, 29 Jul 2023

Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku did not travel with his club for their preseason tour of the United States. Meanwhile, as his teammates played out a 1-1 draw with Newcastle United in Atlanta, Georgia, his name was being invoked by a former suitor.

Inter Milan manager Simone Inzaghi and former teammate Lautaro Martinez expressed regret and indignation respectively that Lukaku looks set to join bitter rivals Juventus.

Is Lukaku really that difficult to love? Despite playing for some of the sport’s biggest clubs and racking up 280 club goals in his career, there is little genuine warmth to be found for the Belgian. Wherever he has played, the 30-year-old has generally found himself misunderstood.


Even outside of the Champions League elite there is scant affection for the big man. Lukaku netted 68 Premier League goals in 141 games for Everton, initially on loan before joining permanently. But the Belgian’s habit of agitating for a move away while giving interviews on international duty did little to endear him. By the time he departed for Manchester United, few tears were shed on Merseyside.

Inter Milan was his best shot at finding a loving home. For Lukaku’s part he did everything possible to make that happen. In his first spell after leaving Man United, he won Serie A, was named the league’s Footballer of the Year and snagged a Ballon d’Or nomination. After his chastening fall down the pecking order at Old Trafford, Lukaku had found a club at which he could thrive.

The call of the Premier League proved too great, though. Chelsea’s mammoth £97.5 million offer prised him away from San Siro. It was at Stamford Bridge where Lukaku’s problems began anew. Having fired in 24 league goals the previous season he managed just eight back at Chelsea. The Belgium international’s 15 goals in 44 games in all competitions was exactly half as many as he scored in the same amount of appearances for Inter the year before. Almost immediately, Chelsea had buyer’s remorse.


The logical move for all parties was a return to Inter. The Italian club balked at coming even close to matching the fee they had just sold the player for. A compromise was agreed where Lukaku returned to Lombardy for a season on loan. He did not quite reach the lofty heights he had in his first spell, but remained a valued part of a side that reached the Champions League final.

There was keenness on Inter’s part to make the deal permanent. Talks took place with that goal in mind, which has led to the indignant reaction to Lukaku’s possible move to Juventus. Inzaghi has admitted there is no way back for the Chelsea striker. Even if there was, Martinez’s anger demonstrates why it would not be a hospitable road to take. So strong is the hatred between the two clubs, even a switch to AC Milan would be considered more palatable, and the striker has spent enough time in blue and black to know a spell in Turin would immediately turn him from ally to enemy in the eyes of the Nerazzurri.

Perhaps Juventus will give the striker a much-needed sanctuary. The only club in England with fond memories of him is West Bromwich Albion, so he’d do well to resist further calls from this country. With all due respect he remains a little too good for a return to the Belgian Pro League. Saudi hasn’t come knocking and, even if it did, Lukaku still has more to give European football before he’s done. The relationship with Inter is punctured by his entertaining of Juve’s offer anyway. The Belgian may as well follow through and join fellow pariah Paul Pogba in Turin.

Strikers with the record of achievement that Lukaku boasts are usually a legend somewhere. But the 30-year-old has not even been afforded so much as cult status at his previous clubs. Lukaku’s legacy is hard to pinpoint. He has scored goals almost everywhere he has been but is never mourned when he leaves. Yet, Lukaku forges on. He’ll get you goals, that much is for sure. Just don’t expect a love affair. When Romelu leaves town, it's rarely as poignant as his skills deserve.

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