Romelu Lukaku

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Lukaku: Majority of Inter players showed coronavirus symptoms last year

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Romelu Lukaku has revealed that, in his estimation, “23 out of 25” Inter Milan players showed coronavirus symptoms at roughly the same time in late December and early January.

[ MORE: Tottenham transform stadium into vital NHS testing facility ]

Inter players were given a week off at the end of December, with no games played between December 21 and January 6.

Lukaku says that at some point after the group reconvened for regular training, what we now know to be common symptoms of the coronavirus had spread throughout the first-team squad. Lukaku says that no players were tested for the virus at that time, as what is currently believed to be Italy’s first confirmed case wasn’t reported until Jan. 31 — quotes from Sky Sports:

“We had a week off in December, we returned to work and I swear that 23 out of 25 players were ill. I am not kidding.

“We played against Radja Nainggolan’s Cagliari (on Jan. 26) and after about 25 minutes, one of our defenders had to leave the pitch. He could not continue and almost fainted.”

“Everyone was coughing and had a fever. When I was warming up, I felt a lot hotter than usual. I hadn’t suffered from a fever in years.

“After the game there was a planned dinner with guests, but I thanked them and went straight to bed. We never did the COVID-19 tests at that moment, so we’ll never know for sure.”

Lukaku did not mention him by name, but Slovak defender Milan Skriniar was subbed off after just 17 minutes of the game against Cagliari. The sides drew 1-1 after Nainggolan, Lukaku’s Belgian compatriot, scored a late equalizer against his parent club.

Transfer Rumor Roundup: Montiel to Palace or West Ham, Coutinho to depart Barcelona

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River Plate is one of many clubs that could use this coming transfer window to earn a payday after taking losses in the coronavirus shutdown, and that could come at the benefit of one Premier League club.

West Ham is apparently one of a few teams after Argentine international Gonzalo Montiel who could fetch River Plate somewhere in the vicinity of $24 million. The right-back is a River Plate youth product who established himself as a regular for the club at just 20 years old and has spent the last three seasons earning significant minutes. Now 23, Montiel is a strong passer who can create for teammates with long-range deliveries.

Argentine publication Ole mentions that Spanish side Valencia has shown interest of late, but also states that West Ham made contact in January but was turned down by River Plate and the Hammers could be suitors again once the next window arrives. Montiel was also linked with Crystal Palace by Goal back in late March, while Argentine newspaper El Intransigente linked the player with Southampton. Palace and Saints both make sense as they are both looking to replace big-name departures of late, with Crystal Palace still yet to truly replace Aaron Wan-Bissaka while Southampton has not seen much from those brought in to take over for Cedric Soares.

Barcelona is reportedly ready to lower its asking price on Philippe Coutinho, with a bid of $86 million potentially workable for the Catalan club, according to a report by the Evening Standard.

Coutinho was extremely poor in his season-and-a-half at Barcelona, and while the Brazilian playmaker had upped his game on loan at Bayern Munich before the coronavirus shutdown, the purchase price on his loan deal is a whopping $130 million, which Bayern Munich is not willing to pay.

Barcelona is desperately in need of funds to support its summer business, with Lautaro Martinez and Neymar both heavily linked with the La Liga giants. It’s highly unlikely that both will be possible to acquire given both the team’s business of late and the coronavirus shutdown causing financial strain on clubs all over the world, and a significant sale may even be needed to get one of them over the line. Coutinho provides such a possibility, but with Barcelona not exactly in a position of strength given Coutinho’s lack of recent star power and the club’s need to sell, dropping the asking price is a highly likely eventuality.

The Evening Standard report mentions that Barcelona believes the Premier League is the “most likely possibility” for a Coutinho suitor given the league’s memories of his incredible spell at Liverpool just a few years ago.

Speaking of the Premier League, Manchester United was reportedly close to securing a marquee striker last summer before eventually sticking with Marcus Rashford up front. Speaking to Italian print publication Tuttosport on Wednesday, Romelu Lukaku’s agent Federico Pastorello said that the Belgian big man almost went to Juventus on a swap deal before Manchester United backed out of the transfer negotiations due to Dybala’s high wage demand. Eventually, Lukaku departed for Inter Milan where he settled in quickly and has contributed to a furious title challenge that just lost steam before the coronavirus shutdown.

Pastorello simply responded “It’s true” when asked if Dybala had been a focal point of Manchester United negotiations, but hedged his answer with, “Romelu, however, had always hoped to go to Inter because he was impressed by the affection of the Inter fans.”

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

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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.”

VIDEO: Lukaku continues tear with goal in opening 20 seconds

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Romelu Lukaku has settled in quite well since joining Inter Milan from Manchester United last summer, hasn’t he?

[ MORE: Inter Milan still chasing January deal for Christian Eriksen ]

The 26-year-old Belgian forward already has 14 Serie A goals (in 19 games) to his name, plus another four in various other competitions, including the opening goal in Inter’s 4-1 Coppa Italia victory over Cagliari on Tuesday.

Just like he hasn’t taken long to get started in his Inter career, Lukaku needed very little time to start firing on Tuesday. He struck the ball with 00:20 on the clock, and by the time it read 00:21 he had already put Inter 1-0 ahead.

That 20th-second strike stood up as the potential game-winner for more than 70 minutes, until Cagliari pulled a consolation goal back late. Fortunately for Inter, Lukaku had already bagged his second of the game (49th minute), sandwiching a supplementary goal from Borja Valero in the first half. Andrea Ranocchia tacked on a late insurance goal and Inter are through to the quarterfinals on Jan. 29.

[ FA CUP: Spurs do just enough to beat Boro, reach 4th round (video) ]

Lukaku’s early successes at Inter have been such that it almost seems impossible that he could have been anything but a similarly raging success at Manchester United. If Inter manage to do the unthinkable — dethrone Juventus by winning the Serie A title — he’ll almost certainly be remembered as the key protagonist. After Tuesday’s game, Lukaku sounded like a player who was back to enjoying the game when he gave all credit to his Inter teammates, coaches, staff and fans — translation via Google:

“Did I settle in well at Inter? The merit is of the teammates, the coach, the staff and the fans. Inter was the best option for me, I can help this team to achieve its ambitions. I am a team man, I only think of the team, not me.”

Serie A roundup: Handanovic saves late penalty, earns Inter draw against Atalanta (video)

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored on his first start for AC Milan, but Atalanta’s shock draw at San Siro highlights Saturday’s Serie A action.

 [ MORE: Serie A scores, schedule ]

Inter Milan 1-1 Atalanta 

Samir Handanovic’s last penalty save on Atalanta’s Luis Muriel bagged a point for top-of-the-table Inter Milan on Saturday, moving them a point clear of second-place Juventus.

Lautaro Martinez put Antonio Conte‘s side in front of the visitor’s in the fourth minute, following a pair of passes between the him and Romelu Lukaku.

But with with the clock winding down, Robin Gosens tied it up for Atalanta, finishing one of the six clear chances the side had at the San Siro on Saturday.

13 minutes later, with two minutes remaining in regular time, the visitor’s had their best opportunity yet to edge Inter. Handanovic, however, dived to his right side, blocking Muriel’s attempt on goal from the spot.

Inter remain atop of the table with 46 points, but Juventus have a clear-cut chance to surpass I Nerazzurri if they defeat AS Roma away on Sunday.

Atalanta remain in the fifth spot with 35 points, level with fourth-place Roma.

Inter host Cagliari on Tuesday in the Round of 16 of the Coppa Italia, while Gian Piero Gasperini’s men travel Florence to take on Fiorentina in the same tournament.

Elsewhere

Cagliari 0-2 AC Milan

Lazio 1-0 Napoli