Why AS Roma could be Romelu Lukaku's last chance at glory

Romelu Lukaku was greeted by thousands of AS Roma fans when he arrived in the Italian capital on Tuesday, ahead of his official unveiling on Thursday at the start of a one-year loan from Chelsea. He was flown in by the club’s billionaire owner Dan Friedkin, a sign of the Belgian striker's status.

Lukaku has his supporters, but a significant proportion of fans have turned against him. Although he is one of the most prolific goalscorers in the history of the game, many remember him for the goals he didn't score: the four misses against Croatia that caused Belgium's early exit from the World Cup in Qatar, or last year's missed header in the Champions League final for Inter Milan against Manchester City.

The 30-year-old is also seen by some as a footballing mercenary, willing to switch allegiance to a club for the right price. Lukaku's best club performances came at Inter Milan, where he won the Italian championship and was named player of the year in 2021. He then moved to Chelsea for a record fee of 113 million euros, but failed to impress in London and returned to Inter on loan last season.

That loan was only for one year. Inter tried to persuade him to agree to a new loan, but to no avail: despite publicly stating that he wanted to stay at Inter, Lukaku was found to be in negotiations with the club's arch-rivals, Juventus.

Juventus fans protested against the potential move, as the striker had once said he would never join the Turin club and that "in Italy, there's only Inter for me". Juventus eventually failed to reach an agreement with Chelsea, leaving Lukaku with seemingly no option but to stay in London.

Chelsea no longer wanted him due to his wages of over 375,000 euros per week. And many fans turned against him when he had a public falling-out with manager Thomas Tuchel in 2022 after giving an unauthorised interview in which he criticised Tuchel and his tactics.

Undeniable talent

Despite the controversies surrounding Lukaku's persona, his talent and results are undeniable. The Belgian has scored 355 goals and is still only 30. He is Belgium's all-time leading scorer with 75 goals - second-placed Eden Hazard only scored 33. He could even become the fourth player in football history to score 100 goals for his country, after Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi and Ali Daei.

As a result, AS Roma decided to take a chance on the striker with a loan deal. Manager José Mourinho personally pushed for Lukaku, saying he was “missing a champion" in his squad. The pair previously worked together at Manchester United, where they finished second in the Premier League in 2018.

This season will be Lukaku's make-or-break moment. If his spell at AS Roma fails, he will be left with few options other than a massive pay cut or a career-ending spell in Saudi Arabia. If he succeeds, he could revive his career and prove his doubters wrong. It won't take long to find out: Mourinho is reportedly planning to select him for Friday's clash with AC Milan.



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