Perhaps I'm a bit biased because I'm a Belgian myself, but I couldn't think of a better way to end this summer mercato— mercato, which has been a rollercoaster of all sorts. While our midfield was finally set after the arrival of Leandro Paredes and Renato Sanches, Roma still had one glaring weakness: the attack. After Tammy Abraham's last-minute injury and Andrea Belotti's disappointing 2022-2023, the Giallorossi simply had to find another striker. Preferably a proven goal scorer and someone familiar with Serie A—the perfect partner for Dybala, Pellegrini, Aouar and company.
Listing all the rumored names between June and August would take an hour or so. camacca, Zapata, Morata, Leonardo, Arnautovic, and then suddenly, out of nowhere, Pinto signed Sardar Azmoun from Bayer Leverkusen. It's not exactly the household name we hoped for, but okay, a body is a body. But boy, were we in for a surprise a bit later, signed, sealed, and delivered by plane by Roma's president, Dan Friedkin.
Romelu frikkin’ Lukaku. Nearly 300 club goals, Belgium's top scorer of all time with an astonishing 75 goals in 108 caps. He is a former Inter, Chelsea, and Manchester United hitman. And the most important detail of all: ideally suited for Serie A. Between 2019 and 2021, he was one of Italy's most complete attackers and earned an MVP award. Last season was a bit underwhelming by Romelu's standards due to hamstring and muscle injuries, but he still managed a respectable 14 goals in all competitions.
Especially in April and May this year, he enjoyed a hot streak, scoring and giving assists left and right, and even though he turned 30, he's far from over. On the contrary, his physique is still damn impressive, and he's hungry as ever for goals and trophies. There's a reason why Inter wanted him back, and Juve was also sniffing around.
But in the end, his new club is AS Roma, thanks to the trio of Pinto, Friedkin, and Mourinho. Lukaku is exactly what the doctor ordered and what Roma needed in its hunt for the top 4. He is a proven goal scorer and the perfect partner for Dybala. How long has it been since Roma had such a high-profile duo up front? So much talent? Dare I say, Totti and Cassano?
Roma sorely missed a guy like Lukaku since the Dzeko days or even the Toni or Batistuta times. A juggernaut. A force of nature. Dybala is an artist. Belotti is a hustler, but he's hardly a towering presence. SES is a tricky winger. Abraham is fast and tall but not really 'big'. I still don't know what Solbakken brings to the table. Lukaku, however, is something else.
He's like a one-man army. A tank. A deadly weapon during counters and set pieces. Able to hold the ball, create space for others, and constantly be a menace for the opponent. Simply put: Romelu can kick a damn ball into the net if he needs to. No nonsense. Just give him the ball and let him slice through a defense like Moses through the water.
Of course, I have seen many of Lukaku's matches (mostly Belgian NT, Anderlecht, and some ManU and Inter ones). And yes, sometimes he misses an easy chance, which can be frustrating to watch. During last year's World Cup in the last group match vs. Croatia, I remember Romelu missed THE chance to score an all-important goal that would send Belgium to the next round. It remained 0-0, and Belgium was out. The entire country was furious and upset.
But that's when Lukaku needs his fans the most. You need to back him up and keep supporting him even if things go rough. Romelu needs to feel at home, loved, and adored. Feel important. He always was a Chelsea fan at heart, but he never got the same treatment there as he got at, for example, Inter or Everton. And now, seeing those 5000 tifosi waiting for him at the airport, singing and shouting, I imagine he felt right at home already. Packed Olimpico is all he needs to turn into Lukaku 2021 again.
Last but not least: factor Mourinho. This is the third cooperation between the two, after Chelsea and Manchester. Their relationship had ups and downs, but there was always mutual respect. Manchester was nearly five years ago; a lot has changed since then. José and Romelu have matured and now find themselves in Rome, a far more passionate environment than London or Manchester.
The third time's the charm, and AS Roma might be the perfect location for both men at this point in their careers. There's a reason why Mou kept calling Lukaku, and Romelu answered his prayers. I feel there's this desire, this enthusiasm to work together and bring Roma back to the top.
Concerning successful Belgians at Roma, the score is 1-1. Radja 'Ninja' Nainggolan will always be a fan favorite, while Thomas Vermaelen was forgettable and injured all the time. Svilar is another Belgian on the team, but I'll give him more time before we pass our judgment. At the moment, it doesn't look too good, though. If all goes well, Lukaku will follow in Radja's footsteps. Although he'll only be with us for one year, 20+ goals and a top-4 finish would mean he was worth every penny of his loan.
Mourinho, Roma's fanatic fanbase, Lukaku's hunger to prove himself vs. Inter and Juventus, the connection with Dybala. This deal has so many upsides that it's almost impossible to be skeptical about it. Let's just enjoy the ride.
Welcome to Rome, Romelu. And as the Belgian band Novastar once sang:
Oh Lord, it seems the best is yet to come. I'm screamin' it out, boy. Screamin' it out. Oh Lord, it seems the best is yet to come.