?One of the longest running transfer sagas of the summer finally drew to a close on Thursday, as Romelu Lukaku sealed a move to Italy with Inter.
The Belgian will wear the number 9 shirt after his prolonged £74m move from Manchester United; the shirt which was undoubtedly Lukaku’s preference, and one which a club record signing should be good enough to demand. The iconic shirt has been worn by some of the best footballers to grace the game, and Lukaku will be hoping he can emulate them.
The 26-year-old will take the shirt from Mauro Icardi, who had worn the shirt since he joined the club back in 2013. The Argentine was handed the captain’s armband in 2015, aged 22, following an excellent start to life at the club – but his relationship with the club has since turned sour.
Icardi was stripped of his captaincy earlier in the year, and has fallen out of favour for his well-documented antics with his agent and wife Wanda Nara. New manager Antonio Conte doesn’t seem to be planning with the controversial forward in mind, and the decision to strip him of the 9 shirt will only add fuel to the suggestion he’s close to leaving.
Before Icardi came the great – and recently retired – Diego Forlan. The Uruguayan only had a short stint at Inter, featuring 22 times and bagging just the two goals. The forward was unable to show his best form, and his contract was eventually terminated by I Nerazzurri in the summer of 2012.
Samuel Eto’o occupied the 9 prior to Forlan. The Cameroonian is considered a club legend, scoring 53 times in 102 appearances and playing a major role in the club’s treble-winning season under Jose Mourinho in 2009/10. Most recently, he has taken time to welcome Lukaku to Inter with a message – as the two played together at ?Chelsea and ?Everton.
“Welcome Inter Milan Romeo. More than a team, it’s a family you join,” Eto’o wrote on Instagram. “Make us proud little brother!”
In the earlier years of the 21st century, the legends kept rolling in as Hernan Crespo, Julio Cruz and Ronaldo wore the 9 shirt. Crespo found the net on 45 occasions in 116 appearances, but his time was halted by injuries. Cruz forged a similar ratio to that of Crespo, netting 75 times in 197 appearances – winning four straight titles.
The great Ronaldo boasted an expectedly healthy goal tally, 59 in 98 – but that alone doesn’t tell the whole story for one of the game’s greatest players, as his time at the club was drastically affected by injury.
Before Ronaldo, Ivan Zamorano wore the shirt with pride and passion. For the 1998/99 season, the 9 shirt was taken off him, but he was so adamant to wear the 9 that he ended up wearing the number 18, adding a ‘+’ between the two numbers.
The 1990s saw numerous occupants take up the number 9 shirt, but perhaps the most notable was Jürgen Klinsmann, who wore it in the 1990/91 season. In his time, he helped Inter win the UEFA Cup, beating Roma in the final.
Rewinding further, Alessandro Altobelli scored 128 goals in 317 Serie A matches for ?Inter, becoming a club great along the way. Perhaps I Nerazzurri’s most prolific striker in the 1970s was Roberto Boninsegna, who scored 113 goals in 197 Serie A appearances for the club.
The long list of elite number 9s continues with Benito Lorenzi, who scored 143 goals in 314 matches. He also led the side to back-to-back Scudetto titles in 1953 and 1954. Finally, we head back to where it all began, with Giuseppe Meazza.
He’s regarded as the best ever goalscorer for Inter, and it’s hard to disagree. Between 1927 and 1940, he scored 245 goals in 348 Serie A matches. San Siro is also named after him, of course.
A whole lot of goals and a whole lot of talent. Romelu Lukaku is now the next number nine, and fans will be hoping he is the man to restore the Italian side to where they truly belong.