Inter Milan sporting director Piero Ausilio is in the UK to negotiate a transfer deal for Romelu Lukaku – but how much would Manchester United miss the Belgian?
Inter appointed former Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte in May, with the Italian targeting Lukaku, who himself started his Premier League career with the Blues.
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Lukaku fuelled speculation further after expressing a desire to play in Serie A in April, although the United hierarchy have reportedly slapped a £75m price tag on him – to recoup the entire initial fee paid to Everton two years ago.
But would he be missed at United and what could he offer Inter? Here, we take an in-depth look at his stats during his time at Old Trafford…
Key stats & form
Despite suffering an underwhelming season, the Belgian still scored one goal every two games on average – which ranked as the 12th best among Premier League forwards this season.
In addition, the Belgium international ranked ninth for shots on target per 90 minutes and imposed his considerable physical presence by winning an above-average four aerial duels per game.
Despite those impressive returns, the Belgian did not assist one goal for a team-mate in the Premier League for the first time during a season – which means his ratio for goals and assists combined has actually hit a four-year low.
The graphic below reveals Lukaku’s rolling five-game average for goals scored (in red) per game over the past two seasons, typically scoring more than expected (in green) – with three notable purple patches in front of goal this term.
According to the Power Rankings, those clinical periods correlate with his overall form, scoring twice against Burnley in September but plateauing below par until hitting a season-high peak against Southampton in March.
His critics often point towards a lack of energy, while Gary Neville singled him out after the 1-1 draw with Chelsea in April, saying: “[Lukaku] always looks tired after one or two big runs. Does Ole think he is going to change him?”
The stats support the criticism. Lukaku covered only 8.67 km per 90 minutes in the top flight this season. To put that into context, that average ranks 278th out of all Premier League players who clocked 1,000 minutes or more.
Romelu Lukaku, PL, 2018/19 (per 90 ranks 1000+ mins) Stat Total PL rank Km covered per 90 8.67 km 278th Sprints per 90 10.97 122nd Top speed 34.89 km/h 17th Positional & passing
Despite covering below-average distance, the graphic below reveals Lukaku actually covered a wider spread of territory during this campaign – moving into more central regions from his favoured right channel.
In addition, the Belgian took far fewer shots from range this season with just four attempts – which actually resulted in only his second top-flight goal from outside the box in three years.
The passing sonar graphic below shows how his distribution transformed, too – passing backwards or sideways in his previous two seasons, but looking to inject more forward momentum this term.
Those passes were typically exchanged with Paul Pogba and were received from Ashley Young, while, incredibly, his next most prolific passing partner was goalkeeper David de Gea, who fired 74 long passes to the Belgian – to hold up play as a direct route upfield.
If Lukaku and United part company, the club will need to sign a replacement who can provide similar or superior returns in front of goal – in the club’s new agile mould. Quite a task.
However, if United choose to retain Lukaku, then Football Whispers data provides a raft of alternative players with strikingly similar skillsets for potential suitors to target.
AC Milan striker Andre Silva, who spent this season on loan at Sevilla, emerges as the closest fit, followed by Gerard Moreno, Mario Gomez and lesser-known prospects Sam Lammers, Jhonder Cadiz, Andrea Pinamonti and Davie Selke.
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