Inter Milan have stormed into a four point lead at the top of Serie A as Romelu Lukaku continues to be the catalyst for Antonio Conte’s men, and with his side handing out a demolition derby over Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s AC Milan on Sunday, it arises the question: Who is the king of Milan?
The Belgian star has been hugely influential in Inter’s rise to the top this season as he has terrified defenders with his frightening power and emphatic finishing, and after Sunday’s victory over fierce rivals Milan, he perfectly demonstrated his ability to influence football matches and impose himself as a frightening figure in the Serie A.
The former Manchester man-mountain was both fierce and fantastic on the weekend, setting up one goal and emphatically scoring another as he marauded his way through the red and black wall of Milan before beating Gianluigi Donnarumma with precision and power.
Not only did this derby-day delight reinstate Inter as serious title contenders again after missing out by a single point last season and nearly ending Juventus’ decade of dominance, it also demonstrated a personal stamp of authority made by the marksman striker over Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The pair have embarked in a personal feud with each other since their arrivals in Milan and have added an extra dynamic to what is an already relentless rivalry. With both men at the forefront of their teams resurgence in Italian football, the Milan derby is as much Zlatan vs Lukaku as it is Red against Blue nowadays.
With both teams battling it out at the top again as they did in the past, the face off between Lukaku and his Swedish rival symbolises an epic heavyweight clash, with both men determined to recreate the past glories of their clubs and claim themselves as the only King of Milan.
Lukaku already self-proclaimed this mantle last February when he Tweeted ”There’s a new king in town” after scoring the final goal in Inter’s 4-2 victory over Milan, only for Ibrahimovic to counter-punch in a typically charismatic and arrogant fashion when he declared ”Milano never had a king, they have a GOD” after his brace secured his team all three points in October.
Just last month the two again clashed during the semi-finals of the Copa Italia and had to be separated by team-mates after Lukaku reacted furiously to the Milan striker’s taunts towards him. It was the Belgian who had the last laugh however as Ibrahimovic was sent off and Inter progressed to the final thanks to a Christian Eriksen winner, and after Lukaku blasted the ball home on Sunday and roared ”I’m the best”, the 27 year old seems to be putting down a serious marker as Milan’s main man.
The resurgence of Inter and Lukaku
Since Antonio’s Conte arrival at the San Siro, Inter Milan have once again looked like conquering Italy and ending Juventus’ long reign over Serie A.
The former Juventus manager, who won three consecutive Scudetto’s with the Old Lady, was never going to return to Italy without setting his eyes on another league title and he nearly achieved this with his Inter side agonsingly losing out by a single point last season.
Following this, the outspoken manager criticised the club’s board on their painful denial of the title and held talks with them for the upcoming season on how the club needed to act if they were to move forward and dismantle the dominance Juventus have imposed on the rest of the league for ten years.
With an eight point lead over Cristinao and co this season, and a four point lead over second placed Milan, Conte has proved to be a tremendous coup for Inter and has totally transformed the mentality of the club which has surged right through to the players – especially Romelu Lukaku.
The former premier league striker has proven once again that he is one of Europe’s finest finishers in front of goal with his 17 league goals this season in just 22 matches, propelling his team to the top of the table. Only the phenomenon Cristiano Ronaldo has scored more in the Series A than the Belgian, but Lukaku’s influence doesn’t solely come from his goal-scoring prowess. His speed and power stretches defences, his hold up play has significantly improved and he is one of the leaders at Inter who makes his presence well known – a stark contrast to the striker at Manchester United, who towards the end of his spell there looked like a player devoid of any confidence.
Lukaku wasn’t by any means a failure at United, he just didn’t fit the mould of how Solskjaer wanted his strikers to operate. He’s a pacy striker who enjoys darting in behind with the long strides he possesses, and at United Ole preferred a more patient and possession style-based approach. Again, by no means was he not good enough for a top side, afterall all the top scorer of the Belgian National team started off well under Jose Mourinho, and in his stint at the club he managed to score a very respectful 42 goals in 96 games. It just didn’t quite work there for him.
The switch to the Serie A and playing under Conte has really reinvigorated the poacher’s playing career. Conte is well known for setting up his teams difficult to break down and inviting teams on, which leaves in more space behind for his attacking players on the counter-attack. We saw him do it at Chelsea, where the likes of Hazard prospered with space in behind defences, and in the Italian’s two year spell in South London, he managed a League Title and an FA Cup.
It’s of no surprise then to see Lukaku reap the rewards playing under a system that suits him more. With more space in behind to stretch defences, we are witnessing some of the best football he has played in years. The tall and powerful striker is a force to be reckoned with, and with the pace and physicality of the Series A lower than that of the Premier League, the ex-Everton man is really maximising his raw power and scoring goals consistently. He currently has 57 goals in just 81 appearances in Italy, and no one would put it past him if he were to overtake CR7 as this season’s top scorer.
With Inter Milan going eleven years without a league title, it is vital that Lukaku continues his fantastic form until the end of the season if they are to secure a Scudetto. Zlatan Ibrahimovic aimed yet another dig at Lukaku after last Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to his rival, stating that the Belgian hasn’t won anything at the age of 27. Well, if he can finally fire Inter to a League title and prove Zlatan wrong, Lukaku can most certainly claim to be the King of Milan.
featured image credit sky sports