Inter boss Simone Inzaghi and CEO Giuseppe Marotta did everything in their power to prevent Romelu Lukaku from rejoining Chelsea, according to the striker’s agent.
Lukaku completed his return to Stamford Bridge on Thursday for a reported club-record fee of £97.5million (€115m), seven years after sealing a permanent move from the Blues to Everton.
The Belgium international has spent the previous two seasons with Inter and fired the Nerazzurri to their first title in more than a decade in 2020-21, scoring 24 goals in the Italian top flight.
He has been criticised by Inter fans for moving on, with accusations of chasing a bigger salary, but Federico Pastorello, who represents Lukaku, responded to those claims in a long statement posted via social media on Friday.
“The narrative – that Lukaku’s transfer was ‘engineered’ and ‘forced’ just to pander to financial interests – is leading everyone absolutely astray,” Pastorello wrote.
“Lukaku has never publicly expressed any unease or discontent about his experience at Inter, his contractual situation or the well-known events of the club.
“The interest of Chelsea really touched Romelu’s soul from the very first moment, because that club means to him something unique and special.
“In recent days I have seen a video from 2009 in which the 16-year-old visited the Stamford Bridge stadium with his school and swore that one day he would play on that pitch.
“I recommend everyone to watch it carefully: it’s impressive how clearly a 16-year-old boy was already drawing his future.
“He wanted to wear that shirt, he succeeded when he was only 18 and unfortunately he left before he could make his mark and win something important.
“The challenge remained like a bug in his heart and mind for all these years. When, almost unexpectedly, the opportunity to try again came up – at the age of 28 after two seasons as a main player with Inter – he almost didn’t believe it.
“It was a chance to come full circle and being the exemplary professional that he is, he decided it was time to accept that challenge again.
“Believe it or not, the supporters’ affection and the special bond with the city of Milan made him think about it for a long time. But then, once he made his decision, he carried on with conviction and firmness.”
Lukaku is the second big-name player from last season’s title-winning squad to move on, following Achraf Hakimi heading to Paris Saint-Germain, while Lautaro Martinez continues to be linked with an exit.
Inter’s financial struggles have been well documented, with former head coach Antonio Conte also moving on during the close season, but not everyone at the club wanted to cash in on Lukaku.
“With regards to Inter, I can guarantee that the CEO Giuseppe Marotta, the sporting director Piero Ausilio and coach Simone Inzaghi did everything in their power to avoid this,” Pastorello said.
“But there are circumstances that go beyond their decision-making range and depend on the instructions of the owners.”
Lukaku scored 64 goals in his two years at San Siro and is the only player across the past 15 seasons to record 20 or more goals and reach 10 assists in a single Serie A campaign.
As well as ending Inter’s long wait for Scudetto glory, he also scored seven goals in six games in their run to the Europa League final in 2019-20.
Pastorello added: “I conclude my thought with a reflection on that day two years ago when Romelu Lukaku signed for Inter.
“At that time many of those who today insult me and threaten me, thanked me wholeheartedly for bringing him to Milan.
“If they had told you: ‘Romelu, after scoring more than 60 goals in two seasons, bringing the club back to the top with his team-mates, playing in the Europa League final and winning the Italian league title that has been missing since 2010, being named MVP of the Europa League and Serie A, will leave the Nerazzurri bringing into the club finances a record sum for the Italian football market’, what would you have done?”