“Io! Io! Te l’ho detto cazzo!”
Those were the words which cascaded from Romelu Lukaku’s lips upon spreading Alessio Romagnoli on a nice panino and smashing a thunderous shot beyond a helpless Gianluigi Donnarumma in the Milan goal.
“It’s me! It’s me! I f*****g told you!”
I wonder who those words of wisdom were directed at…judging by the volume and trajectory at which he bellowed this proclamation of Milanese dominance, we can only assume he was putting Zlatan Ibrahimovic back in his box following their recent heated exchange in the Coppa Italia.
Ibrahimovic returned to Milan in 2020 and declared himself God of the city, and for half the season, it looked as if he was ready to fulfil his prophecy of bringing glory back to the Rossoneri.
But there appears to be one thing that even God himself can’t control – a vengeance-seeking Belgian hitman. Lukaku was absolutely sensational in the derby della Madonnina, demonstrating an array of strings to his bow which many critics have refused to acknowledge for years now.
He began the game by showing his delicate touch and jaw-dropping pass accuracy, collecting the ball on the right of the penalty area and curling an in-swinging cross perfectly onto the head of strike partner Lautaro Martinez. It was a mouth-watering piece of play from the duo, and one which set the tone for a one-sided derby.
The 27-year-old harassed the Milan defence from thereon in, regularly receiving the ball with his back to goal, spinning his marker and tearing towards a terrified and exposed Donnarumma. When he was unable to break free of the defender’s grip, he would keep the ball under his spell just long enough for the marauding Nicolo Barella to pinch it off his toes and counter with venom and speed.
As far as classic centre-forward displays go, this was one of the best you’re likely to see.
His back to goal work paid dividends for the Martinez’s second too, shrugging off the helpless Rossoneri backline before supplying Achraf Hakimi, who carried the ball towards the penalty area for the Argentine to eventually tap over the line.
Then came Lukaku’s moment in the sun. Collecting the ball midway inside the Milan half, the striker turned, sized up the quivering Romagnoli, and decided to go for the jugular. He picked up speed and momentum, pushed the ball onto his left foot and sent an unstoppable missile beyond the stranded Donnarumma.
And that was game over – and potentially title race over, too. Inter were incredibly comfortable in the 3-0 success over their bitter rivals, opening up a four-point lead at the top of Serie A in the process. Lukaku’s signing was always a statement of intent from the Nerazzurri, who saw his arrival as a chance to topple Juventus and regain their place as Italy’s best football team.
Since he touched down in Milan, Lukaku has demonstrated he has the capability to drag Inter to a long-awaited scudetto, scoring 34 goals in all competitions in his debut season at Inter – a feat only matched by the great Ronaldo while wearing the black and blue.
His ability to perform in the big matches was often brought into question during his time at Manchester United, but he has put those doubts to bed, often stepping up to save the day during his time at San Siro.
In fact, he became the first player in the history of this great rivalry to score in each of his first five appearances in the derby della Madonnina, setting yet another record in his illustrious career.
If there are any critics left out there who believe Lukaku does not have the talent to thrive in any league in the world, or still hold on to the lazy stereotype that he can’t trap a ball – just take a look at Sunday’s destruction of Milan.
It was so good that even Ibrahimovic could only stand and applaud. Not that the Inter man is interested in the Swede’s opinion, though. Lukaku is the real deity of Milano, after all.