Romelu Lukaku Takes Mauro Icardi's No. 9 Shirt at Inter Amid Exit Rumours

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistAugust 9, 2019

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 26:  Mauro Emanuel Icardi of FC Internazionale looks dejected during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale and Empoli FC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 26, 2019 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images)
Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

Inter Milan confirmed on Friday that new signing Romelu Lukaku will take the club's iconic No. 9 jersey from Mauro Icardi.

The Belgium international arrived at the San Siro on Thursday, with Inter paying a reported £74 million for the centre-forward.

It's anticipated Lukaku will lead the line for Antonio Conte's side this season, and the decision to give him Icardi's jersey has cast further doubts over the future of the Argentina forward.

Inter confirmed the decision on their Twitter account:

Inter @Inter

❔ | NUMERO DI MAGLIA @RomeluLukaku9 ⚫️🔵👇🏻 #WelcomeRomelu #NotForEveryone #ForzaInter https://t.co/57nja9IOh3

The move makes it increasingly likely that Icardi has played his final game for the club, continuing what has been year to forget for the sharpshooter.

Per Simon Peach of the Press Association, the Inter boss has been open about his unwillingness to use Icardi. "He is out of Inter's project," the Italian said in July. "This is the reality in this moment."

Icardi has been one of Inter's best players in recent years, although his career in Milan has stalled in 2019. In February, he was stripped of the captaincy, while a public war of words between the player, his wife and agent Wanda Nara and former manager Luciano Spalletti ensued.

While Icardi has long been linked with a move away from the club, Conte's candidness when discussing the player makes an exit more likely than ever. According to Alvise Cagnazzo of the MailOnline, the striker wants to stay in Italy, with Juventus linked with a possible move.

Per Italian football journalist David Amoyal, the futures of Icardi and Lukaku appeared intertwined at times during the summer:

David Amoyal @DavidAmoyal

It’s amazing how timing is such a factor in this chess match between Juventus & Inter that involved Lukaku and now Dybala and Icardi. Fascinating stuff especially when you consider two former long time colleagues, Marotta & Paratici, are playing this chess match

While Conte seemingly has no time for Icardi, it's abundantly clear he is pleased to have got the transfer of Lukaku over the line:

Inter @Inter_en

🖤💙 | LUKAKU There are welcomes 🤗 There are warm welcomes 🤗🔥 There are very warm welcomes 🤗🔥🔥 And then there are Antonio #Conte welcomes 🤗🔥🔥🔥 #WelcomeLukaku #NotForEveryone #ForzaInter https://t.co/N0ldluoJ2T

It will be intriguing to see how the ex-Everton man fares in Italy, having spent much of his career in the Premier League.

After a strong start to life at United, Lukaku frustrated Red Devils supporters. He was unable to operate as part of a high press off the ball, while his work with his back to goal leaves a lot to be desired.

Where Lukaku excels is in his goalscoring, as he was one of the most frequent goalscorers in English football's top flight during his time in the division:

OptaJoe @OptaJoe

100 - Romelu Lukaku is the fifth-youngest player to reach 100 goals in the Premier League (24y 322d), as well as the youngest non-English player to achieve this milestone. Force. https://t.co/nVYhhBsWr9

Icardi was formerly adored by the Inter faithful, and it's a shame to see his spell at the club head towards such a bitter end. At his best, he is one of the most prolific finishers in the game, and that edge in front of goal will be attractive to a number of high-profile teams across Europe.

The challenge for the Nerazzurri now will be finding a suitor for the player who will meet their valuation. If there were any lingering hopes for Icardi of forcing his way back into contention, taking his famous shirt number from him and giving it to a new signing surely eradicates them.