Romelu Lukaku’s return to Inter Milan has been far from what he would have hoped it would be but the Belgium striker is showing signs of life as his team prepare for the Champions League visit of Porto.
Hit by a succession of injuries and ridiculed for his part in his country’s dismal World Cup campaign, Lukaku has been a peripheral fugure in what was supposed to a glorious homecoming season for the 2021 Serie A winner.
The 29-year-old has only played the full 90 minutes once for Inter since being sent back there on loan from Chelsea last summer, seven starts and three goals in all competitions a poor return given all the close season hype.
On Saturday Lukaku scored his first Serie A goal since the opening day of the season, netting a penalty at the second attempt which started Inter towards a 3-1 win.
However it wasn’t the most convincing way to get back on the scoresheet as his first go from the spot was struck dreadfully, finally scoring after an Udinese player was caught encroaching in the penalty area.
And as it stands Lukaku is behind veteran Edin Dzeko in the queue to play alongside Lautaro Martinez, the other half of the once great ‘Lu-La’ partnership who has come back from Argentina’s World Cup triumph in fizzing form and has even worn the captain’s armband.
Martinez has scored eight times in all competitions since returning from Qatar and will be coach Simone Inzaghi’s major weapon on Wednesday night.
His buoyant post-World Cup mood goes in stark contrast to Lukaku’s state of mind in the Gulf, a smashed dugout and a trail of missed chances against Croatia which ended the Red Devils’ chances at the group stage the only memories of an awful tournament.
“Croatia was a huge disappointment but I told myself: ‘Romelu, you weren’t 100 percent, you’d only had two training sessions,” said Lukaku at the start of the year.
“I was rightly massacred but now I really want to get back out on the pitch.”
In the summer all the talk was how cash-strapped Inter would be able to make his loan move back to Italy permanent given Chelsea shelled out well over 100 million euros for him in 2021.
But Italian media widely report that while Inter want to keep Lukaku they need to see his physical problems are behind him before they try to convince Chelsea to accept four millions euros to extend the loan for another season.
Inzaghi certainly seems keen to keep him around, his team fighting to reach the quarter-finals of the Champions League for the first time since 2011 while also in a five-way fight for three places in next year’s competition.
“Lukaku is improving day by day, game by game, training session by training session. We have a huge amount of faith in Rom,” said Inzaghi after the Udinese win.
“He had problems last season in London, we brought him back here and then he had a serious injury that troubled him for four months.
“If he is starting games, that means he is in good shape and playing will help him strengthen that form.”
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