Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku ‘didn’t have the energy’ for another year at Man Utd

Leave a comment

Romelu Lukaku has revealed he “didn’t have the energy” for another year or the constant criticism and drama which he endured during his final season at Manchester United, prompting him to leave for Inter Milan last summer.

[ MORE: Report: Donnarumma learning English ahead of PL move ]

Speaking to Arsenal legend Ian Wright in a video interview on Wright’s YouTube channel (video above), Lukaku opened up about his second-season struggles at Old Trafford and explained his thought process which ultimately led him to leave Man United for $90 million — excerpts from Sky Sports:

“One bad year can happen to everybody in their career. It was just done for me. You know what happened behind the scenes, it was just done. For me, it was done.

“It was a difficult situation where for myself I had to make a decision where I have to go somewhere where I can learn other aspects of my game and work with somebody that wanted me as well.

“Ole [Gunnar Solskjaer] wanted me to stay, but I told him I was over. I didn’t have the energy. All credit to him because he’s been a man and he helped me make the move away.”

“It’s a club that gave me a platform that I’ve never seen in my life, so for me to be disrespectful about Man United or any other club I played for in England, I think, is a bit childish. I think I went past that stage of talking back to people.”

As for where he landed, Lukaku revealed that Inter and Juventus were both interested in acquiring his services, but it was the chance to play for Antonio Conte which sold him on the club from Milan.

“It was close. It was really close but my mind was always set on Inter… and the manager. When I was a kid, Inter was my team in Italy. I looked up to Adriano and Ronaldo.

“Obviously when Inter came, the club, the manager Conte that wanted me at Chelsea and when he was at Juve as well, I was like now it’s time to go over there and see what it’s like, but just keep my head down and work.”

Barcelona prepared to meet $124M release clause for Martinez

Barcelona
Photo by Claudio Villa - Inter/Inter via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Lautaro Martinez’s incredible season is paying off big time for Inter Milan.’

The Serie A side reportedly resisted big money overtures from Barcelona this summer, pointing to his approximate $124 million release clause.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Now Barca is said to be prepared to meet that clause in order to land Martinez.

Football-Espana says that a cash-plus-player deal is the other option. Barca would be willing to send Arturo Vidal or Ivan Rakitic, while Antonio Conte would prefer Nelson Semedo or Arthur.

Signing the 22-year-old Argentine could help sate the concern of countryman Lionel Messi, who’s watched Barca fail to provide him adequate reinforcements as Real Madrid stockpiled young talent. Messi was reportedly disappointed that the Blaugranas failed to pony up for Neymar this summer.

Martinez has 16 goals and four assists in 31 matches this season, including a goal against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League.

He’s Inter’s second-leading scorer behind Romelu Lukaku, and the Serie A side has nine points insulation on the UCL chasing pack with a match-in-hand.

Barca is going to have get rid of some players to pay big for Martinez, with Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele challenging the club on different levels. And who knows who else may want to leave Barcelona given its messy season (maybe really messy is a better choice)?

Europa League: Man United through, Arsenal shockingly out

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Wolves advanced in Europa League play earlier Thursday comfortably, and while Manchester United also moved on with ease, Arsenal crashed out in painful fashion.

Bruno Fernandes was a menace as Manchester United rolled over 10-man Club Brugge 5-0 at Old Trafford. He struck the post just minutes in before forcing a bigtime save from Simon Mignolet. Fernandes eventually put Manchester United up from the penalty spot just before the half-hour mark, giving the Red Devils the opener after Simon Deli was sent off for clearly handling the ball in the box.

With the man advantage, Manchester United ran ragged, with Odion Ighalo scoring his debut Red Devils goal and Scott McTominay also finding the back of the net in his full return to the squad from injury. The second half was a breeze, with Manchester United hold Club Brugge without a shot on target, while the Red Devils popped off 18 shots with eight of them on frame. Fred tacked on a pair in the final 10 minutes to complete the scoreline.

[ MORE: Early games see Wolves, Bayer advance among others ]

Arsenal appeared to be stumbling towards penalties at the Emirates as they took on Olympiakos. Then they were rescued by a moment of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang magic. Then they were out.

After the Gunners won 1-0 in Greece, the return leg at the Emirates was a slog, with Arsenal falling in regulation 1-0 on a 58th minute Pape Abou Cisse header. That sent the match to extra time where it seemed penalties were imminent after Olympiakos substitute Georgios Masouras hit the crossbar. With just seven minutes to go, Aubameyang produced a bicycle kick to put the Gunners in front.

But just minutes later, Olympiakos leveled the aggregate scoreline with a Youssef El Arabi header in the 119th minute. Aubameyang had another chance to win it for the Gunners, but he couldn’t finish right on the doorstep at the buzzer and Arsenal crashed out of the competition.

In an empty stadium, Inter started sluggish but came back to advance past Ludogorets Razgrad 4-1 on aggregate thanks to a 2-1 victory at the San Siro. Brazilian winger Cauly opened the scoring for Ludogorets to get Inter close on aggregate, but an own goal brought Inter back level and Romelu Lukaku put the Italians in front before halftime to put them out of reach. Lukaku’s strike was a wild header that he worked while laying prone in front of Ludogorets goalkeeper Plamen Iliev.

Ajax’s disappointment continued as last year’s Champions League semifinalists dumped out of Europe via a 3-1 aggregate defeat to Getafe. After a 2-0 first-leg loss, Jamie Mata piled on the Dutch side’s woes with a fifth-minute opener. Danilo got Ajax on the board to level things up minutes later and Carel Etling doubled Ajax’s total to put them 2-1 up and within one on aggregate, but it wasn’t enough. Ajax had 71% possession but could only manage three shots on target, while the two teams racked up nine yellow cards.

Celtic failed to hold serve at home as it crashed out of European competition on a roller coaster 3-1 loss to FC Copenhagen. The visitors scored the opener on a hilarious defensive fail by Celtic five minutes after halftime.

Celtic seemed to have rescued the match as Odsonne Edouard struck in the 83rd minute, but Copenhagen bounced straight back as Pep Biel and Dame N'Doye stunned the Dublin crowd to send Celtic crashing out of Europe.

Shakhtar Donetsk advanced past Benfica in a wild 3-3 draw that saw the Ukranians move on via a 5-4 aggregate victory. Both teams held leads at various stages, but with Shakhtar trailing 2-1 shortly after halftime, Taras Stepanenko and Alan Patrick found the back of the net to put Shakhtar up for good. Benfica’s elimination seals the fate for all three Portuguese sides in the competition after both Sporting CP and Porto were bounced in the early kicks.

Sevilla labored to a 0-0 draw with Romanian side CFR Cluj, with the Spaniard advancing on away goals after a 1-1 aggregate draw. The two teams ripped off a combined 34 shots but neither found the back of the net. Sevilla racked up 2.17 xG, so elimination was not harsh on the Romanians.

The Round of 16 draw will be held at 7:00 a.m. ET tomorrow morning.

Europa League results (bolded team advances)

Arsenal 2-2 Olympiacos (AET)
Manchester United 5-0 Club Brugge
Inter Milan 2-1 Ludogorets
Benfica 3-3 Shakhtar Donetsk
Ajax 2-1 Getafe
Celtic 0-1 FC Copenhagen
Sevilla 0-0 CFR Cluj

Serie A roundup: Inter pull off stunning Derby della Madonnina win, top Serie A (video)

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Inter Milan’s thrilling comeback win against rivals AC Milan highlights Sunday’s busy Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Inter Milan 4-2 AC Milan

Four unanswered, second-half goals sent Nerazzurri players and fans into sheer pandemonium at the San Siro, as Inter Milan pulled off a comeback for the ages against arch-rivals AC Milan on Sunday.

 

Stefan de Vrij and Romelu Lukaku scored the final pair of goals for Antonio Conte‘s side, who saw themselves down two goals at halftime. The famous 4-2 victory puts Inter above Juventus, making them the new leaders of Serie A.

In his return to the derby, Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored and assisted Ante Rebic, giving the Rossoneri’s a comfortable lead going into the break. The 38-year-old was ultimately unable to extend his unbeaten streak at the San Siro since his January move, with Milan’s defense crumbling a few minutes into the final 45 minutes.

In two minutes within the first 10 minutes of the latter half, two, rapid-fire strikes from Marcelo Brozovic and Matias Vecino saw Inter back on level terms.

The loss marks Milan’s first in five consecutive Serie A bouts, first in seven throughout all competitions.

Tied with Juventus at 54 points but ahead with a better goal differential, Inter set their sights on Lazio, who they face midweek in the semifinals of the Coppa Italia. AC Milan, who are 10th in the table, await Juventus in the same competition.

Elsewhere in Serie A 

SPAL 1-2 Sassuolo

Brescia 1-1 Udinese

Napoli 2-3 Lecce 

Genoa 1-0 Cagliari 

Parma 0-1 Lazio

Top European teams roll in domestic Cup action

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester City advanced in the Carabao Cup despite losing to Manchester United, but otherwise most top teams across Europe advanced in domestic Cup action with little trouble.

Real Madrid hammered Real Zaragoza 4-0 in the Copa del Rey behind four different goalscorers. Raphael Varane opened the scoring just six minutes in, and it was elementary from that point on. Lucas Vazquez doubled the lead past the half-hour mark, while Vinicius Junior and Karim Benzema tacked on goals inside the final 20 minutes. The Vinicius goal was the pick of the lot, poking home the finish with the outside of his foot. Zaragoza held its own in front of net, actually out-shooting Madrid 15-13, but only put three of its 15 efforts on target and struggled to cope with Madrid’s ruthlessness in front of net, and overall it was just too easy for the La Liga leaders who advanced to the quarterfinals of the competition.

In other Copa del Rey scores, defending champions Valencia needed penalties to pass by Segunda Division side Cultural Leonesa after a 0-0 draw. Santi Cazorla scored as Villareal topped Rayo Vallecano 2-0, with both Villareal goals coming inside the final 10 minutes of the match.

In France, both Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Marseille advanced by two-goal margins, also moving into the quarterfinals.

PSG started a second-choice eleven against third-tier Pau and worked a 2-0 victory behind goals from Pablo Sarabia and Leandro Paredes. Mauro Icardi led the lines for PSG supported by the likes of Julian Draxler and Eric Maxim Chupo-Moting, while Ander Herrera held down the midfield.

Marseille topped fellow Ligue 1 challengers Strasbourg 3-1 with Dimitri Payet on the scoresheet alongside Bouna Sarr and Boubacar Kamara. It was tight through the end until Kamara put the game away in the 95th minute. Payet’s goal came from the spot, while Sarr’s opener just past the half-hour mark featured a dizzying, sparkling run through the penalty area past three defenders before finishing with the left foot.

Inter had a tougher task, squeaking by Fiorentina 2-1 to reach the semifinals of the Coppa Italia. Antonio Candreva poached a goal in the 44th minute on a goalmouth scramble to put Inter in front, and while Fiorentina drew level on the hour mark off a corner, Nicolo Barella delivered a venomous blast seven minutes later to seal the win. The match featured the debut of Christian Eriksen off the bench, seeing time on the field alongside four other former Premier League players for Inter in starters Alexis Sanchez, Romelu Lukaku, and Ashley Young plus substitute Victor Moses.

The one side that fell in disappointing fashion was French club Lille who slumped to a 2-1 defeat to fourth-tier side SAS Epinal. Former Chelsea striker Loic Remy scored just eight minutes into the match to put Lille in front early, but the minnows managed a pair of second-half goals from Jean-Phillipe Krasso to pull off the enormous upset.

The only top European league that did not feature any domestic Cup action this week was Germany, whose DFB-Pokal is still in the Round of 16. Those matches will take place next week with RB Leipzig taking on Eintracht Frankfurt while Bayern Munich hosts Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen meets Stuttgart, Schalke hosts Hertha BSC, and Borussia Dortmund visits Werder Bremen.