'Ronaldo took me to another level' – Lukaku hails Cristiano after claiming Serie A award

By Sports Desk March 21, 2022

Romelu Lukaku credited Cristiano Ronaldo for motivating him to find "another level" at Inter when the pair competed together in Serie A.

Lukaku led Inter to their first Scudetto in over a decade last season, scoring 24 league goals, before returning to former club Chelsea in a £97.5million (€115m) move ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

The Belgium international is yet to hit the same lofty heights at Stamford Bridge, finding the net just five times in 19 league appearances this season, but his efforts at Inter continue to be recognised.

Lukaku has been named as the 2020-21 Footballer of the Year by the Italian Footballers Association, while former coach Antonio Conte and Inter were respectively honoured as Coach of the Year and Club of the Year.

Meanwhile, Chelsea man Lukaku was joined in the Top 11 for the season by Ronaldo, who scored 29 goals for Juventus before himself heading back to the Premier League with Manchester United.

Former Juventus forward Ronaldo was also announced as part of the team of the season, and Lukaku hailed the Portugal star for pushing him to achieve what he did at Inter.

"It's truly an honour to have been voted the best player and to have entered last year's Top 11 in Serie A," Lukaku said.

"I want to thank everyone who voted for me and especially my team-mates, because I think without the team I couldn't have made it. We won together, the coach was always next to us, as well as the club and the fans.

"Playing in Serie A was a dream I had since I was a child and I did everything necessary to win in Italy.

"Finding yourself in front of Cristiano Ronaldo is something that does not happen often, because for me he is in the top three of the best players in the history of football, a player who really took me to another level.

"This award gives me great confidence for the future."

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    Milan star Pulisic stole the show with an eye-catching strike into the top corner, and he added an assist for Folarin Balogun as the USA opened their campaign with a 2-0 win on home soil on Sunday.

    Pulisic became only the second USA player after Clint Dempsey to register a goal and an assist in a Copa America match, while he is also now the country's quickest player to reach 30 goals, doing so in his 69th game.

    An inspired performance from the captain also ended a woeful run for the USA against CONMEBOL sides at this tournament, given Gregg Berhalter's side had previously lost eight of 10 such games.

    Pulisic felt that USA could easily have won by a greater margin, with the strong performance making a statement ahead of their next group games against Panama and Uruguay.

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    Defender Antonee Robinson also felt USA could easily have won by more.

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    Bolivia, meanwhile, have now lost their last four international outings by a concerning margin of 9-1, having suffered defeats against Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia and USA.

    They face Uruguay, who won their opener 3-1 against Panama, on Thursday.

    USA will play Panama earlier on the same day before concluding their Group C campaign against Uruguay on July 1.

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    The 15-time winners were rewarded for their fast start when Maximilian Araujo curled home his first international goal in the 16th minute. 

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    And their wastefulness was punished late on as Darwin Nunez, who had missed several chances in the game, settled Uruguay's nerves with a calm finish. 

    Matias Vina furthered La Celeste's advantage in the first minute of injury-time with a header, only for Michael Amir Murillo to net a late consolation for Panama. 

    However, Bielsa was quick to temper expectations despite the triumph, insisting his side must improve to secure a record 16th Copa America crown. 

    The 68-year-old took charge of Uruguay in May last year, beating both Argentina and Brazil in World Cup qualifiers. 

    "When it comes to Uruguay's aspirations, we will see that and build it match by match," he told reporters.

    "My expectation is that each match will increasingly help us to improve on our level. Uruguay has players of a very good level and we need to see if I can build with those players."

    Uruguay continue their group campaign against Bolivia in New Jersey on Thursday, before facing the USA at the Arrowhead Stadium next Tuesday. 

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    Marcelo Bielsa insists there is room for improvement for Uruguay, despite kicking off their Copa America campaign with a 3-1 win over Panama in Florida. 

    Uruguay's win saw them move level on points with hosts the United States following their victory over Bolivia in the other Group C encounter. 

    The 15-time winners were rewarded for their fast start when Maximilian Araujo curled home his first international goal in the 16th minute. 

    However, Panama would grow into the contest as Jose Fajardo and Jose Rodriguez squandered golden opportunities for Thomas Christiansen's side. 

    And their wastefulness was punished late on as Darwin Nunez, who had missed several chances in the game, settled Uruguay's nerves with a calm finish. 

    Matias Vina furthered La Celeste's advantage in the first minute of injury-time with a header, only for Michael Amir Murillo to net a late consolation for Panama. 

    However, Bielsa was quick to temper expectations despite the triumph, insisting his side must improve to secure a record 16th Copa America crown. 

    The 68-year-old took charge of Uruguay in May last year, beating both Argentina and Brazil in World Cup qualifiers. 

    "When it comes to Uruguay's aspirations, we will see that and build it match by match," he told reporters.

    "My expectation is that each match will increasingly help us to improve on our level. Uruguay has players of a very good level and we need to see if I can build with those players."

    Uruguay continue their group campaign against Bolivia in New Jersey on Thursday, before facing the USA at the Arrowhead Stadium next Tuesday. 

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