Now with 300 goals, Romelu Lukaku is Europe's most underrated striker
Romelu Lukaku has scored 300 career goals quicker than Luis Suarez, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robert Lewandowski and is still just 27… once labelled ‘unprofessional’ and criticised for his touch, the deadly Inter star is the game’s most underrated striker
- Romelu Lukaku has reached 300 career goals as Inter Milan now top Serie A
- The Belgian striker, 27, is the same age as when Cristiano Ronaldo reached 300
- Lukaku has achieved the milestone five years quicker than Zlatan Ibrahimovic
- The forward has gone from United scapegoat to one of the top strikers in Europe
It was rather poignant that Romelu Lukaku’s match highlight against Lazio on Sunday was not scoring his 300th career goal in Inter Milan’s 3-1 victory.
The forward’s two strikes at the San Siro were clinical, the significance of the result – Inter leapfrogged city rivals Milan to the top of the table – was important but it was Lukaku’s late assist for Lautaro Martinez that caught the eye.
Midway through a tense second half, the Belgian chased after a ball forward from inside his own half, shrugged off Lazio’s Marco Parolo before squaring to his Inter strike partner for the easiest of finishes.
Romelu Lukaku scored his 300th career goal in Inter Milan’s 3-1 victory over Lazio on Sunday
Lukaku also provided a superb assist for Lautaro Martinez with a solo run for Inter’s third goal
Control, coolness, desire and a willingness to work for the team were exactly the criticisms aimed at Lukaku during his time at Manchester United.
Now, as the Inter forward marks 300 senior goals, it’s time to recognise him as the modern game’s most under-rated forward.
At 27 years and 277 days old, Lukaku has reached 300 goals quicker than Milan rival Zlatan Ibrahimovic, with whom he violently clashed in last month’s Coppa Italia quarter-final derby.
Lukaku has reached 300 career goals nearly five years quicker than Milan’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic
WHEN THE ELITE HIT 300 CAREER GOALS
Lionel Messi: 25 years and 126 days old
Cristiano Ronaldo: 27 years and 91 days old
Romelu Lukaku: 27 years and 277 days old
Luis Suarez: 28 years and 283 days old
Robert Lewandowski: 28 years and 196 days old
Zlatan Ibrahimovic: 32 years old and 242 days old
Cristiano Ronaldo was also 27 when he hit 300 goals, while Luis Suarez and Robert Lewandowski – who are both revered as Europe’s elite in their role as central strikers for Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich respectively – were both older than the Belgian when they hit the milestone.
What is even more impressive is that Lukaku’s career hit a slump during his time at Chelsea, playing just 12 times in the 2011-12 season. Since then, the Belgian also has double-digit league goal tallies in each of the last nine seasons.
Why, therefore, doesn’t Lukaku get the same praise as the likes of Suarez and Lewandowski? The way he left Manchester United goes some way to explaining why.
The Belgian was often scapegoated as the reason why the Red Devils won two out of their last nine matches of the season as Ole Gunnar Solskjaer began his rebuild at Old Trafford.
Videos of Lukaku’s heavy touches circulated the internet and as soon as the goals dried up for the Belgian striker in Manchester, his fate was finally sealed.
Lukaku was often scapegoated for Manchester United’s struggles during the 2018-19 season
Perhaps the reason why the striker’s every touch was scrutinised was because Lukaku always threatened to become the striker United have lacked since Sir Alex Ferguson’s days – but couldn’t keep the consistency.
In his final season at Old Trafford, Lukaku began the Premier League season with five in his first five games, scored twice in United’s stunning Champions League last-16 result in Paris and bullied Arsenal’s defenders in that year’s FA Cup fourth round win.
Let’s not forget Lukaku became the fifth-fastest player to reach 100 Premier League goals and the youngest foreigner to ever reach that milestone.
Lukaku became the youngest foreigner to reach 100 Premier League goals at Old Trafford
LUKAKU AT INTER AND UNITED
Manchester United (2017-2019)
Minutes per goal involvement: 131
Inter Milan (2019-present)
Minutes per goal involvement: 98
Glimpses of a star player were regular, but not everyone saw them.
Upon his departure to Inter Milan, Gary Neville accused the Belgian of being overweight in his final season and branded his ‘unprofessionalism’ as ‘contagious’.
Inter ignored the claims that Lukaku spread negativity around Old Trafford and gave the Belgian the chance to be the main man, rather than one of many stars at Old Trafford alongside the likes of Marcus Rashford, Paul Pogba and Anthony Martial.
As a result, Lukaku’s statistics have sky rocketed. The 27-year-old has started roughly the same amount of games for Inter as he did United and has a much better goal tally and goal involvement ratio.
Martinez and Alexis Sanchez play some role in sharing the load up front but there’s no doubt who the central star is in the blue half of the San Siro.
The leading role is one that he has performed well in throughout his career. He was pivotal to West Brom’s best ever top-flight season in 2011-12 while he was the consistent focal point up front in an Everton side that kept swapping managers.
Lukaku (right) is joint-top scorer with Cristiano Ronaldo as Inter currently top the Serie A table
It’s at Inter where Lukaku is finally stepping into the limelight, but he needs the accolades to prove it. One negative aspect of his career is that he has no trophies since a Belgian league title with Anderlecht to show how far he has come in his career.
Scoring against Zlatan’s Milan this weekend and taking Inter four points clear at the top would go some way to leading Inter towards a first Scudetto in over a decade.
Achieve that and Lukaku – who is now joint-top Serie A goalscorer along with Cristiano Ronaldo this season – can put the harsh criticism behind him.
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