Lukaku has often divided opinion during his career, but the 26-year-old has been flying since he joined Inter in August and has already scored more goals in half a season for the Nerazzurri than he did in the whole of his final campaign with Manchester United.
Lukaku has 14 in 18 Serie A games for Inter so far and is on course to better the 25 he managed in the Premier League for Everton in 2016/17, which remains a league career high.
“I heard people say Lukaku was a donkey – I heard all sorts not even that long ago! It’s easy to speak highly of Lukaku now, but if we look back to a few weeks ago…” Conte is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail in an impassioned defence of his number nine.
“I always said Romelu was a rough diamond that needed work to smooth him out. Lautaro Martinez is the same. These lads are 26 and 22 years old, they are still young,” he added.
For Conte, finally having the chance to work with Lukaku is close to a decade in the making after missing out twice in the past. The coach had first wanted the player, who has been a star since the age of 16, at Juventus. It was the same at Chelsea in 2017, but Manchester United won the race and Conte had to make do with the underwhelming Alvaro Morata instead.
“I wanted Romelu very strongly when I was at Chelsea, even back at Juventus. I wanted him, now I can get to work on polishing the diamond,” the Inter boss explained.
Conte’s Inter are currently top of Serie A just shy of the halfway stage of the Italian season and pose the biggest threat to Juventus’ run of domestic dominance since it began in 2011/12.
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