Romelu Lukaku is under severe pressure after Belgium’s World Cup elimination and seems to have lost his identity after a Chelsea spell last season, writes Lorenzo Bettoni.
The Belgian hitman was the biggest threat to every Serie A defender between 2019 and 2021. Scorer of 64 goals in 95 appearances under Antonio Conte at Inter, Lukaku completed a €113m move to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2021, becoming the most expensive signing in the history of the Blues.
However, he was unable to justify his price tag, scoring just 15 goals in 44 appearances under Thomas Tuchel. Lukaku struggled to come to terms with the German tactician and was not on good terms with the ex-Blues boss on and off the pitch.
Tuchel’s playing style did not fit the ex-Manchester United forward and their weak bond led to Lukaku’s exit after just one season.
Last summer, he made a shock return to Inter, completing a loan deal until the end of the season, but the 29-year-old seems to have lost his true self and is now the shadow of the player that used to brutalise Serie A defences less than two years ago.
He was the brightest star at Inter under Conte. The perfect man to convert all the attacking actions created by the Nerazzurri under the ex-midfielder who won the title in 2020-21 before leaving the club, followed by Lukaku and Achraf Hakimi.
In London, Lukaku was just one of the many stars and despite his solid bond with the club and the fans, he never really settled at Stamford Bridge and eventually ruined his rapport with the Blues and their supporters, suggesting at the end of December 2021 that leaving Inter was a mistake.
He was no longer a regular starter in the second part of last season and although his return to Inter was somehow surprising, seeing him leave Chelsea was the only possible option for the player and the club.
Lukaku clearly lost self-confidence in London and, partially, his best fitness.
During his first two-year spell at Inter, he had only missed eight games because of injuries, while during his time at Chelsea last season he missed nine games due to physical problems. This season, he has already missed 16 matches at a club level, making just five appearances with Inter.
The striker also sat out of the first World Cup match with Canada because of a muscle injury.
The Red Devils’ 0-0 draw against Croatia on Thursday led to a shocking elimination, also caused by Lukaku’s errors in front of the goal.
Big Rom broke to tears after the final whistle and was consoled by Thierry Henry, one of Roberto Martinez’s staff members at Belgium and the possible successor of the ex-Everton boss.
Lukaku cancelled his holiday to return to Inter, where he’d like to remain beyond 2023. The Serie A giants don’t have an option to make his move permanent, so they’ll need to sit down with the Blues if Lukaku offers convincing performances in the last six months of the campaign when he’ll have to rediscover his true self.