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Roberto Martinez: Romelu Lukaku Needed 'Fresh Air' of Manchester United Exit

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2019

Belgium's coach Roberto Martinez (L) speaks with Belgium's forward Romelu Lukaku during the Russia 2018 World Cup semi-final football match between France and Belgium at the Saint Petersburg Stadium in Saint Petersburg on July 10, 2018. (Photo by GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS        (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
GABRIEL BOUYS/Getty Images

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez believes Romelu Lukaku needed "fresh air" ahead of his transfer to Inter Milan from Manchester United. 

Lukaku left the Old Trafford outfit after two seasons in the summer transfer window, joining the Serie A giants in a deal worth a reported £74 million.

Although the Belgium international was a regular goalscorer for the the Red Devils, he divided opinion during his time at the club. Speaking about the forward, Lukaku's national team manager said the time was right for a transfer, per Neil McLeman of the Daily Mirror.

"The link between Romelu and Manchester United had simply come to an end," Martinez said. "He needed fresh air—he's found it at Inter and joined a very ambitious club."

Lukaku has worked under Martinez at international and club level. The coach brought the striker to Everton in 2013 on an initial loan deal before the Toffees signed him on a permanent contract the following summer.

It was at Goodison Park where Lukaku cemented his reputation as one of the best goalscorers in English football after a stellar loan spell with West Bromwich Albion.

After shining for Everton, he earned a move to Manchester United in the summer of 2017 and appeared ready to take another step in his career. Per OptaPaolo, in his two years at the club, Lukaku was comfortably United's most productive player:

OptaPaolo @OptaPaolo

42 - In his period with Manchester United Romelu #Lukaku scored 42 goals in all competitions, at least 16 more than any other player for the club. Overwhelming.

He was involved in the high point of the previous season, netting twice in United's memorable UEFA Champions League comeback against Paris Saint-Germain:

Football on BT Sport @btsportfootball

Romelu Lukaku looks set to leave Man Utd with Inter Milan in the 'final stages' of completing a deal... 9️⃣6️⃣ games 4️⃣6️⃣ goals His finest hour for United? Two massive goals on *that* night in Paris 🙏 https://t.co/FLx53Eoxiv

It was a surprise Lukaku's situation became so stale so quickly at United. The brand of football being deployed by new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer doesn't seem to align with the Belgium star's natural attributes.

Solskjaer appears keen to utilise a fluid front three, containing players who can interchange and press opposition defenders high up the field. Lukaku lacks the intensity off the ball to be able to thrive in that kind of setup.

With that in mind, it will be fascinating to see how he fares under Inter manager Antonio Conte, who builds teams renowned for their dynamism in and out of possession. Per Italian football writer Adam Digby, the former Chelsea and Juventus boss has wanted the player for a long time:

Adam Digby @Adz77

Jokes aside, Lukaku is a good signing for Inter for a number of reasons. He fits their system, he could rediscover his best form in a new environment &, perhaps most importantly, Conte wanted him badly so that’s one major meltdown avoided

Martinez will be hoping the change in environment and a new set of challenges will give Lukaku a fresh lease of life. If it does, Belgium will also stand to be beneficiaries; they are next in action on September 6, when they take on San Marino in a UEFA European Championship qualifier.

Per McLeman, Lukaku scored four times for Inter in a recent friendly game against Serie D side Virtus Bergamo. His competitive debut for the club will likely come on August 26, when the Nerazzurri host Lecce in their Serie A opener.