Phil Foden has been a revelation since breaking into Manchester City's first team and the Premier League champions are eager to reward him with a new deal.

The England midfielder is under contract under 2024, but City are set to keep in at the club for the long term.


TOP STORY – CITY REACH FODEN AGREEMENT FOR BUMPER DEAL

Manchester City and Foden have reached an agreement in principle on a £78million deal according to Football Insider.

The mega-money deal is worth around £250,000 per week for the 22-year-old, pushing him close to the money Kevin De Bruyne and Erling Haaland are earning.

The length of the contract is six years for the Stockport-born star, who came through the academy at City.

ROUND-UP 

Arsenal have moved on from Dusan Vlahovic , according to Fabrizio Romano, who claims the Gunners are not interested in re-visiting a potential move for the Serbian who joined Juventus in January.

Manchester United will dangle a five-year contract for striker Marcus Rashford as they look to tie him down long term, reports The Express. Rashford's current deal expires at the end of this season.

– Calciomercato claims Alex Sandro will depart Juventus when his contract expires at the conclusion of this season. The Brazilian has previously attracted interest from Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain .

Romelu Lukaku has no plans to return to Chelsea when his season-long loan with Inter expires at the end of this season, reports La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Chelsea are ready to pay £30million for Fulham's 17-year-old midfielder Luke Harris , claims The Mirror. Harris was called up to Wales' Nations League squad, but is yet to debut for the Cottagers.

Liverpool and Arsenal are both considering a move next year for Villarreal's 21-year-old winger Alex Baena , reports the Daily Mirror.

Harry Kane remains at the centre of significant transfer speculation after the Tottenham striker failed to secure a move to Manchester City last year.

The England star appears more settled under Antonio Conte but has been linked with Bayern Munich recently.

Kane has started this Premier League campaign strongly, netting six goals in seven appearances.

TOP STORY – CHELSEA PLOTTING KANE-LUKAKU SWAP

New Chelsea boss Graham Potter wants to bring Harry Kane across town from Tottenham, claims Calciomercato.

The Blues boss is ready to offer Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, currently on loan at Inter, as part of an exchange for Kane. The England forward's contract at Tottenham expires in 2024.

Chelsea are at the start of a new era after Potter replaced Thomas Tuchel, while they are set to appoint Salzburg's Christoph Freund as their new sporting director.

 

ROUND-UP

– Fichajes reports Atletico Madrid are desperate to add a versatile attacker to their squad next year, with Manchester United's Marcus Rashford, Brighton and Hove Albion's Leandro Trossard and Liverpool's Roberto Firmino on top of their wish list.

– Calciomercato claims Liverpool are considering a move for Shakhtar Donetsk winger Mykhaylo Mudryk. Newcastle United, Sevilla, Bayer Leverkusen and Ajax are also tracking the Ukrainian, according to CBS' Ben Jacobs. TalkSPORT reports that the Reds are also keeping an eye on Flamengo midfielder Joao Gomes .

– Manchester City are interested in a big-money move for Milan winger Rafael Leao next year, according to the Manchester Evening News.

– Football Insider reports West Ham have informed Manuel Lanzini he is free to leave the club in January.

– Former Italy international Fabio Cannavaro is close to a return to management with talks to take over at Serie B club Benevento progressing well, according to Fabrizio Romano.

Roberto Martinez expects Romelu Lukaku to return to Inter training in the next week, but has left him out of Belgium's squad for their upcoming Nations League games as a precaution. 

Lukaku sustained a thigh injury in training at the end of last month, causing him to miss a derby defeat to Milan and Champions League fixtures against Bayern Munich and Viktoria Plzen.

The striker, who is Belgium's record goalscorer with 68 goals in 102 senior caps, also appears doubtful for the Nerazzurri's Serie A tussle with Udinese on Sunday, prompting Martinez to act with caution when selecting his squad for games against Wales and the Netherlands.

"Romelu is making good progress, his recovery is going in the right direction," Martinez said.

"He will probably return to Inter within a week, not calling him was a prudent choice. 

"With Romelu it was important not to risk, because a relapse with an injury of this type would be very risky in view of the World Cup."

Milan's Divock Origi is also absent from Belgium's latest squad after failing to make a Serie A start since completing his move from Liverpool, though fellow Rossoneri newcomer Charles De Ketelaere is in.

Anderlecht defender Zeno Debast is the only uncapped player selected by Martinez, who has picked an experienced 30-man party in a bid to make up a three-point gap to the Netherlands at the top of Group A4.

Belgium squad: Thibaut Courtois (Real Madrid), Simon Mignolet (Club Brugge), Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg), Matz Sels (Strasbourg); Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht), Toby Alderweireld (Antwerp), Thomas Meunier (Borussia Dortmund), Jason Denayer (free agent), Dedryck Boyata (Club Brugge), Timothy Castagne (Leicester City), Arthur Theate (Rennes), Brandon Mechele (Club Brugge), Wout Faes (Leicester City), Zeno Debast (Anderlect); Axel Witsel (Atletico Madrid), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Youri Tielemans (Leicester City), Eden Hazard (Real Madrid), Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund), Leandro Trossard (Brighton and Hove Albion), Amadou Onana (Everton), Leander Dendoncker (Aston Villa), Hans Vanaken (Club Brugge), Alexis Saelemaekeers (Milan); Dries Mertens (Galatasaray), Michy Batshuayi (Fenerbahce), Charles De Ketelaere (Milan), Dodi Lukebakio (Hertha Berlin), Lois Openda (Lens).

Simone Inzaghi was in no doubt as to the importance of Inter's 2-0 Champions League win at Viktoria Plzen, as he looks to navigate a path through a group containing Barcelona and Bayern Munich.

Having fallen to a 2-0 loss against Bayern last Wednesday, Inter were faced with the prospect of starting a Champions League campaign with back-to-back defeats for just the second time (after doing so in 2006-07).

But Edin Dzeko's cultured first-half finish put the Nerazzurri in control, and Denzel Dumfries made the points safe after Pavel Bucha was dismissed on the hour mark.

Inter have now won three of their last four Champions League away games, as many as they had in their previous 12 such matches.

Having triumphed 1-0 at Liverpool in the second leg of a last-16 tie in March, meanwhile, the Nerazzurri have won back-to-back away games in the competition for the first time since October 2011. 

Inzaghi, who began his news conference by labelling Barcelona and Bayern "the two best teams in the world at the moment", was aware of the importance of taking maximum points in the Czech Republic.

"We know we will face them, today the goal was to bring home the points," he said.

"We made easy a match that was not, no Italian team had won here in Plzen. It's a well-deserved victory, wanted by the boys, I'm happy.

"We are happy, because we knew that the opponent could not be underestimated. We knew the path of all the Italian teams that came here in Plzen. 

"The boys were good, they remained focused, and I congratulated them in the locker room."

Inter never looked likely to surrender the points after Dzeko swept into the bottom-right corner. The former Manchester City and Roma striker has now recorded 20 goal involvements in his last 21 Champions League appearances (14 goals, six assists).

While praising the forward's contribution, Inzaghi highlighted the importance of competition in the Inter attack as he revealed Romelu Lukaku should return from injury after this month's international break.

"Edin was good, like all his team-mates. I need everyone in defence, in midfield and in attack," he added.

"After the break Lukaku will return, and from match to match I will choose the attacking couple who will enter the field."

Plzen coach Michal Bilek, meanwhile, rued the ruthlessness of the Bosnia and Herzegovina international, declaring: "I said yesterday that a shot on goal was enough for him to score.

"He is a very good player and even today he managed to score like this. For the rest of the match I think that our players managed to control him well."

Former Juventus coach Fabio Capello thinks the Bianconeri enjoyed the best transfer window of any Serie A club, but still believes they are not favourites to lift the Scudetto.

Juventus have claimed two wins and three draws during a solid if unspectacular start to the new season, and have faced criticism for their ponderous style of play under Massimiliano Allegri.

Their underwhelming performances have come in the aftermath of a window in which the Turin giants acquired Paul Pogba, Angel Di Maria, Gleison Bremer, Filip Kostic and Leandro Paredes.

Capello was impressed by their recruitment, particularly with the decision to replace Matthijs de Ligt with Bremer, but does not believe they will win their first title since 2019-20 this season.

Speaking to SportWeek, Capello said: "Looking at the names, Juventus were the winners. 

"They had a top summer with Di Maria, Pogba, Paredes, all champions that other teams don't have. Bremer is better than de Ligt on a defensive level. 

"Juve have invested in quality, catching up with Inter and Milan. Without the new players they're already among the top teams, while the others lost players."

However, when asked for his title favourites, Capello added: "It's still Inter, even though they lost [Ivan] Perisic and have [Romelu] Lukaku injured. The Belgian is the market coup of the summer. 

"Milan made an important effort for [Charles] De Ketelaere, whom I confess I don't know. 

"Napoli have replaced the departing players with good alternatives. Lazio will also be one to watch."

Juventus spent an estimated €105million during the transfer window, more than any other club in the Italian top-flight.

However, they have been beset by injury troubles in recent weeks, with a knee injury threatening to rule Pogba out of the upcoming World Cup and a thigh problem continuing to plague Di Maria.

Simone Inzaghi admits Romelu Lukaku's recovery will take some time but the Inter boss still feels his side can "make a difference" without their forward when they face Milan in the Derby della Madonnina.

The two local rivals meet at San Siro this weekend for the first time since the Nerazzurri defeated Milan in the Coppa Italia semi-finals last term.

However, the Rossoneri prevailed in the pair's battle for the Serie A title, with Inter missing the pinpoint power of forward Lukaku following his move to Chelsea.

An underwhelming season back in the Premier League led to the Belgian's return to Inter on loan, but a thigh injury means he will miss their biggest match of the season to date.

Inzaghi insists his team will cope without Lukaku, saying at his pre-match press conference: "The hope is for [Lukaku] to recover before the international break. It will take some time, but the medical staff is working on his recovery. We must prepare for these eventualities.

Inzaghi discussed his various selection dilemmas for the derby, with centre-back Alessandro Bastoni missing the midweek 3-1 win against Cremonese with a fever.

"He was not 100 per cent already before the Cremonese game with a fever, and in these two days he still was not well," he said. "I will decide as soon as I get him back in the group in training, as well as for the attack where I can choose between three players and figure out who to support Lautaro [Martinez].

"On Tuesday, [Joaquin] Correa did very well and scored, [Edin] Dzeko did a great job.

"I also have to choose in the wide positions. [Robin] Gosens has been stationary for six months. Right now I'm preferring to let him enter the race. In the derby I will decide between him, [Federico] Dimarco and [Matteo] Darmian."

The former Lazio boss understands what the game means, both locally and in the wider title picture, and called on his players to show "nastiness and determination" on Saturday.

"Last year, we played many derbies and the last one allowed us to win a trophy," he said. "A derby is loaded on its own - two strong teams face each other and the matches are balanced, decided by individual episodes.

"We need to make a difference. We know it's an important match. It needs to be a tour-de-force between now and November - it will take nastiness and determination."

Inter have confirmed Romelu Lukaku will be absent for at least a week with a thigh injury.

The Belgian forward sustained the issue in a training session on Sunday and will be reassessed next week, though his absence means he will miss two crucial games for the Nerazzurri.

Lukaku will be forced to watch on in Tuesday's Serie A clash against Cremonese and will remain absent for the derby against defending champions Milan this weekend.

It is also likely that the Chelsea loanee will not be able to feature when Inter commence their Champions League campaign against Bayern Munich next week.

A statement on Inter's website confirmed Lukaku had suffered an injury to the flexor of his left thigh and said his condition will be re-evaluated next week.

Reports in Italy have suggested Lukaku could be out for a longer period of 20 days, which would mean missing further clashes against Torino and Udinese in Serie A and Viktoria Plzen in the Champions League.

Inter have picked up six points from their opening three league matches, beating Lecce and Spezia before defeat to Lazio on Friday.

Romelu Lukaku struggled in Inter's first defeat of the season at Lazio, but Simone Inzaghi was more concerned by the Nerazzurri's inability to win without the talismanic forward at his best.

Lukaku has returned on loan to Inter, where he won the 2020-21 Serie A title, after a difficult year with Chelsea.

The forward swiftly appeared to have rediscovered his best form in Italy, scoring two minutes into his second Inter debut against Lecce and then teeing up a Lautaro Martinez goal at home to Spezia.

But Friday's third match of the season at Lazio brought a reality check, with Lukaku scarcely troubling the capital club.

The Belgian attempted three shots – all with his head – but only one hit the target, and he did not create a single chance; his 19 touches were the fewest of any starter on either team.

Lukaku was substituted for Edin Dzeko in the 69th minute with the game level, yet Lazio went on to win 3-1.

"[Lukaku] had played the first two games in the best way," Inzaghi told DAZN when quizzed on the change.

"More than looking at the changes, we have to analyse a lost game, a direct clash that hurts.

"We know that we have to do more in these games to win, beyond the condition of Lukaku or Lautaro."

Martinez had equalised for the Nerazzurri early in the second half, but Inzaghi felt the game turned with a close-range Denzel Dumfries header that was saved just 88 seconds after that goal.

"The defeat stings for the way it happened," the coach explained. "The match was balanced and hard fought against a quality opponent.

"Luis Alberto's goal [Lazio's second] broke the game; at 1-1, we had Dumfries' chance that would have changed things.

"We had to show more nastiness on our side because these games are played in moments."

Simone Inzaghi praised Romelu Lukaku's contribution since he returned to Inter on loan from Chelsea, as he backed the Belgian striker to hit top form sooner rather than later ahead of their trip to Lazio.

Inter have made a perfect start to their Serie A title bid, following up a last-gasp win at Lecce on the opening day by beating Spezia 3-0 last time out.

Lukaku, who fired the Nerazzurri to the Scudetto in 2020-21 with 24 league goals before heading to Chelsea, needed just 82 seconds to find the net when making his second Inter debut at Lecce.

While the Belgian then failed to score in Inter's routine win at San Siro last weekend, Inzaghi was content with his display and believes it will not be long until he is scoring regularly once more.

"I think he did the first two games in the best way. It is not a matter that concerns only Romelu, but the whole team," Inzaghi said at a pre-match press conference.

"We know that the condition is improving, we know we have players with important physicality and therefore we knew we needed some important games. 

"We started quite well, we want to continue trying to improve all our players, including Lukaku. 

"We also want to recover [Henrikh] Mkhitaryan, who will be very important, there will be 19 games in a row before a stop [for the World Cup]. We will have to try to have all the players available. Tomorrow everyone travels except Henrikh."

 

Lukaku scored 47 goals in 72 Serie A appearances in his first spell at Inter. Only Cristiano Ronaldo (60 goals in 66 appearances) and Ciro Immobile (56 in 72 games) outscored him in the competition during that time.

Lukaku's return has raised hopes that Inter could reclaim the Serie A title this season, but holding onto defender Milan Skriniar, who was strongly linked with Paris Saint-Germain, could prove just as important.

While Skriniar struggled with a muscle injury during pre-season, Inzaghi is pleased with the Slovakia international's progress, adding: "I see him very well, concentrated, attentive. 

"There was a problem at the beginning of the preparation, it came from an injury with the national team, something new for him because he had never skipped a training session in the last years. 

"Instead, this time he slowed down for 40 or 45 days and his condition is growing."

Inzaghi suffered his first league defeat as Inter boss when visiting former club Lazio in October last year, with Immobile on the scoresheet.

And while Inzaghi still enjoys a close bond with last season's Serie A top goalscorer, he is not enthused by the prospect of facing the Italy international on Friday.

"A great affection binds me to him, he made very important seasons with me, he did it again last year with [Maurizio] Sarri," he added. 

"I know it's a special game for everyone, we all care about it. I hope Ciro always scores, but maybe tomorrow he rests!"

Inter maintained their perfect start to the Serie A season by dominating Spezia in a 3-0 win at San Siro, as Lautaro Martinez netted a thunderous strike to open his account for the new campaign.

Martinez drilled home from outside the area as Inter swiftly established control, with Denzel Dumfries and Romelu Lukaku guilty of missing excellent chances before half-time.

Hakan Calhanoglu gave the Nerazzurri breathing space with a neat right-footed finish shortly after the break, ensuring there was no need for the sort of last-minute heroics Inter required at Lecce last Saturday.

Joaquin Correa then came off the bench to tap in a late third, sending Simone Inzaghi's men to the top of the table at this early stage.

Bartlomiej Dragowski made an acrobatic save from Dumfries' eighth-minute header as Inter started brightly, before he Martinez at the end of a slaloming run five minutes later.

The Nerazzurri hit the front when Martinez fired a terrific effort into the bottom-left corner after latching onto Lukaku's flick-on after 35 minutes, before Dumfries was denied by the boot of Dragowski after racing clear.

Lukaku nodded against the crossbar and Martinez turned Dumfries' header over as Inter continued to dominate, although Inzaghi's side failed to build on their advantage before half-time.

Yet Inter needed just six minutes to double their lead follow the restart, with Calhanoglu reacting to a loose ball to side-foot into the bottom-right corner from inside the area.

Inzaghi withdrew Lukaku as the pace of the game slowed thereafter, but replacement Edin Dzeko had time to lay on an assist as he beat Dragowski before picking out Correa for a third goal 10 minutes from time.

What does it mean? Inter enjoy home comforts

Inzaghi was far from pleased despite Inter starting the Serie A season with a win at Lecce so would have been delighted with a far more convincing display when the Nerazzurri returned to San Siro.

Inter have now lost just two of their past 37 Serie A home games, with both of those defeats coming during a costly blip in February this year (against Sassuolo and Scudetto winners Milan).

Lautaro and Lukaku still perfect partners

Martinez and Lukaku combined for eight goals as Inter romped to the Serie A title in the 2020-21 season, making them the most effective partnership in the division.

Spending a year apart does not seem to have diminished their understanding, with Martinez opening the scoring in emphatic style after racing onto the Belgian's header.

Since the start of last term, only Ciro Immobile (28) and Dusan Vlahovic (26) have scored more Serie A goals than Martinez (22).

Calhanoglu continues purple patch

Former Milan man Calhanoglu may sometimes be hidden behind the headline acts mentioned above, but the Turkey international has certainly delivered recently for Inter –especially at home.

Calhanoglu's second-half strike means he has recorded a goal contribution in four consecutive league outings at San Siro (one goal, four assists).

What's next?

Inter travel to Rome to face Lazio in their next Serie A match on Friday, while Spezia host Sassuolo the following day.

Thomas Tuchel was prepared to give Romelu Lukaku another chance to be a success at Chelsea and accepted responsibility for his "disappointing" return.

Chelsea forked out a club-record £97.5million to bring Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge for a second stint last August, after a season in which his 24 goals helped fire Inter to the Serie A title.

But the move did not work out for Chelsea or Lukaku, who earned the ire of boss Tuchel over an unauthorised interview given to Sky Italia in which he aired his displeasure at the system being used and spoke of a desire to one day return to Inter.

That wish has since been granted, with Chelsea agreeing to allow Lukaku to re-join Inter on loan after he managed just eight Premier League goals last season.

Lukaku gave a timely reminder of his quality with a goal 82 seconds into his second Inter debut in a 2-1 win over Lecce on Saturday.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Tuchel conceded there were regrets over how things panned out with Lukaku.

"Yes, we should all be honest that it was disappointing, but also for myself and my terms of performance," he said.

"I'm far away from pointing the finger at Rom, but he was disappointed, I was disappointed. 

"It's on me to find the structure, to build an environment to make the player confident and bring the very best out of him.

"This is why I'm here, I'm serving the players, not the other way around. I did not succeed, which does not make me happy.

"I was ready to give it another try, Romelu decided differently and expressed his wish to go back.

"The owners decided in the end to agree to his wish, so we have to find more solutions."

The Blues lost another forward when Timo Werner was allowed to return to RB Leipzig in a permanent deal.

Tuchel believes Raheem Sterling, signed from top-flight rivals Manchester City, could be the man to provide the goal threat and thought he showed signs of his potential in a 1-0 win over Everton.

"He's good, he brings intensity, repetitive intensity, a very humble approach to his game, he finds speed and he finds work-rate," Tuchel said.

"You saw this at Everton, which was a very close game and maybe not the biggest physical game, but he found his work-rate. 

"He's determined to end up in the box, he's a huge player for us and a huge player for England, so I'm happy."

Inter boss Simone Inzaghi was not pleased with his side's performance in their 2-1 win away from home against Lecce, saying a team with title aspirations can not be relying on a 94th-minute winner.

The Italian giants – who had the best goal difference in Serie A last season (plus 52) – opened the scoring just 81 seconds in, when loan signing Romelu Lukaku headed home Matteo Darmian's cross from point-blank range.

Inter controlled 70 per cent of the possession in the first half and appeared good value for their lead, but the entire complexion of the contest changed two minutes into the second half when Assan Ceesay tucked home his left-foot finish low and hard across Inter goalkeeper Samir Handanovic after a slick counter-attack.

The 1-1 score would hold until the game's dying moments, when an Inter corner found Lautaro Martinez's head, who flicked it on for substitute defender Denzel Dumfries to force home at the back post.

Speaking to DAZN after the win, Inzaghi said there were positives to look at, but ultimately his side needs to be more emphatic against a newly promoted team playing their first Serie A game in seven years.

"A team like ours cannot win these games [in stoppage time]," he said. "We put a lot of heart on the pitch because we won in the 94th minute, but we have to analyse the game. 

"I am fortunate to have strikers who can play together like [Edin] Dzeko and Lukaku who allow us to play directly, especially on a pitch that was not in great shape at the end, with the midfielders coming in behind them. It is an option that will also be seen in the future.

"We had an excellent half hour, then we got nervous, losing the measures and conceding the equal goal. We could have scored the double before, but a team like this can't suffer so much, and you can't wait until the last moments to win."

When probed further about Lukaku, Inzaghi added: "Lukaku? I am happy, he is working hard, he is back and has a great desire and availability. 

"He can improve like everyone else, but he works like everyone else. He is a driver and he will score a lot of goals from here."

Denzel Dumfries scored a dramatic 95th-minute winner as Inter began their Serie A campaign with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Lecce, as Romelu Lukaku scored on his Nerazzurri return.

Lukaku required just 82 seconds to head home the opener on his second Inter debut, but Simone Inzaghi's side looked set to make a stuttering start when Assan Ceesay levelled three minutes after the break.

But substitute Dumfries was on hand to convert from a corner deep into stoppage time as Inter made a winning start to the new campaign.

Having watched champions Milan beat Udinese in their own season-opener early on Saturday, Inter ensured they matched their rivals' exploits at the outset of what is likely to be another thrilling title race.

 

Simone Inzaghi emphasised the importance of Inter keeping their squad together on the eve of the new Serie A campaign, as he revealed the Nerazzurri are not targeting multiple new additions.

Inter missed out on the Serie A title to rivals Milan by just two points in Inzaghi's first campaign at the helm in 2021-22, but have been tipped to regain the Scudetto after bringing in the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Andre Onana.

Meanwhile, despite Paris Saint-Germain being linked with Milan Skriniar and Chelsea touted as a possible destination for Denzel Dumfries and Alessandro Bastoni, the Nerazzurri have retained the services of other key players.

And Inzaghi is keen to ensure things remain that way, as he said a replacement for defensive back-up Andrea Rannocchia – who has joined Monza – is Inter's only transfer target.

"The team is the one that I have agreed with the company and the owners," he told a news conference ahead of Inter's Serie A opener at Lecce.

"The team will be this, we are missing a player to replace Ranocchia, the company is working on this and I think I don't have to talk about it anymore. 

"The incoming and outgoing market is closed."

Lukaku's return on a season-long loan deal from Chelsea represents one of the biggest acquisitions made by any Serie A team during the off-season, after he fired them to the 2020-21 Scudetto with 24 league goals.

Upon his San Siro comeback, Lukaku will be expected to rekindle a fearsome partnership with Lautaro Martinez after they created 29 chances for one another – eight resulting in goals – during the Belgian's last season at Inter.

Inzaghi also has the likes of Edin Dzeko and Joaquin Correa to call upon as attacking options, and is pleased with the way the 29-year-old has settled back in to the Nerazzurri frontline.

"Lukaku works as well as the others, he's been out for a year, he's trying to integrate as best he can with everyone," Inzaghi added. 

 

"He's not new here, I'm very happy with him, Dzeko, Lautaro and Correa. 

"On [departing forwards Alexis] Sanchez and [Andrea] Pinamonti, we made some choices focusing on these four, who give me great guarantees.

"Tomorrow, a difficult championship starts again where many teams will fight to win like us. They have strengthened a lot, my focus is only on Lecce. 

"They are a newly promoted team who will have support and enthusiasm, it will take a real match from Inter to be able to win.

"It must be another great year, Inter have a duty to aspire to the maximum. The team is unchanged: we lost [Ivan] Perisic who was very important, but he made other choices. We brought back Lukaku, we took functional players.

"The opponents made many purchases, investing a lot, but they know that Inter will be on their way."

For the second consecutive year, Romelu Lukaku is returning to a former club. This time around, there is greater confidence he will be a success.

Lukaku's second attempt to forge a career at Chelsea proved as frustrating as his first.

Underused at Stamford Bridge as a young player before departing for Everton, Lukaku would argue he was misused last season.

The unstoppable force who had fired Inter to the 2020-21 Serie A title was gone, with the Belgium forward looking a little lost in Thomas Tuchel's system.

Now, though, Lukaku is back at Inter. Antonio Conte may no longer be at San Siro, but Lautaro Martinez, Lukaku's former strike partner, crucially still is.

The main man in Lukaku's absence, Martinez improved his goal output from 17 in 2020-21 to 21 last season, albeit that tally was still only enough to finish third in the Capocannoniere race.

Lukaku had been second the year before with 24, beaten by Cristiano Ronaldo, but his focus in returning to Italy is again on team success, with Inter having just lost the Scudetto to Milan.

"I don't care about the top scorers' ranking, I tell you honestly," Lukaku told DAZN ahead of the new season. "I only think of the Scudetto.

"Yes, the goals come, but we are at Inter, here we play for the Scudetto and not for individual things."

 

Succeeding as a team means playing as a team, and Lukaku and Martinez undoubtedly did that in 2020-21.

The pair created a combined 29 chances for one another, with eight of those leading to goals. That goal-assist combination made Lukaku and Martinez the most effective partnership in the division, ahead of Ruslan Malinovskyi and Duvan Zapata at Atalanta (seven goals).

The five goals Lukaku laid on for Martinez contributed to his 11 assists for the season, trailing only Malinovskyi (12) in that regard.

Indeed, since Opta's Serie A assist data began in 2004-05, Lukaku is the only player to score 20 or more goals and provide 10 or more assists in the same season.

Lukaku's inability to contribute a single assist in the Premier League last term therefore illustrates how spectacularly Chelsea failed to get the best out of him. Netting just eight times himself, he failed to link up with any Blues team-mate for more than a single goal.

That is not to say Lukaku and Martinez clicked instantly at Inter; in the former's first season in Italy, in 2019-20, he scored 23 goals but assisted only two. One of those two assists saw Lukaku tee up Martinez, but the Argentina forward did not return the favour even once.

In 2020-21, unlike at Chelsea, Lukaku was able to make the most of his best attributes for the benefit of both himself and his team-mate.

Rather than consider Lukaku a target man, Conte allowed his number nine to turn and run with the ball, with five of his assists coming following ball carries – along with four of his goals. Only Luis Muriel (12), another Atalanta player, contributed to more Serie A goals following carries than Lukaku's nine.

None of his eight Chelsea goals came following carries as he recorded only 4.4 carries per 90 minutes, down from 7.7 at Inter.

 

With Simone Inzaghi still using the same 3-5-2 formation that suited Lukaku so well, he and Inter will hope his reintegration now is seamless.

There remain other issues at the Nerazzurri, and goals were not necessarily the biggest problem Inzaghi's side had last term; they scored just five fewer than the previous season and led the league in that regard.

With three fewer victories than in their title-winning campaign, Inter finished two points shy of rivals Milan.

Yet Lukaku either scored or assisted in 22 of Inter's 38 games in 2020-21 and in 20 of their 28 wins – both league highs that show how vital his contributions can be.

The Nerazzurri will now head into the new season feeling confident they have re-signed the one man most likely to dominate Serie A matches on his own... or with a partner.

Page 1 of 22
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.