Cristiano Ronaldo Told Romelu Lukaku Serie A Is World's Hardest Defensive League

Gill Clark@@gillclarkyFeatured Columnist IIDecember 23, 2019

MILAN, ITALY - DECEMBER 21: Romelu Lukaku of FC Internazionale celebrates after his 1th goal 1-0 ,during the Serie A match between FC Internazionale and Genoa CFC at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on December 21, 2019 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by MB Media/Getty Images)
MB Media/Getty Images

Romelu Lukaku has said Cristiano Ronaldo told him Serie A is the "hardest defensive league in the world" after the striker swapped Manchester United for Inter Milan in the summer transfer window. 

The striker told Rory Smith at the New York Times that he spoke to the Juventus forward ahead of kick-off when the two clubs met at the San Siro for a league clash in October:

"He told me this is the hardest defensive league in the world. He said he'd scored goals everywhere, but this was the toughest place to do it. And if Cristiano Ronaldo thinks it's difficult, then it must be really difficult. It's harder than England. The football is more intense there, but here everything is pattern of play."

Lukaku left the Red Devils in the summer transfer window after two seasons to join Inter Milan on a five-year deal for a club-record fee of €80 million (£74 million), per BBC Sport.

The Belgium international scored 42 goals in 96 games for the Red Devils but only 15 of those came in his final season as he fell out of favour under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer.

Lukaku has thrived since joining the Nerazzurri and has hit the ground running with Antonio Conte's side:

OptaPaolo @OptaPaolo

8 - Romelu #Lukaku is the first Inter player to score at least 8 goals in the first 11 league match-days and in his first season for the Nerazzurri since #Ronaldo in 1997/98 (9 goals in that case). Lethal. #BolognaInter

He has formed a strong partnership with Lautaro Martinez in attack, particularly away from home:

OptaPaolo @OptaPaolo

13 - Romelu Lukaku (eight) and Lautaro Martínez (five) have scored 13 away goals combined in Serie A current season, only two sides have netted more so far (excluding Inter). Export. https://t.co/zzbc4olbkY

The duo's goals have helped fire the team to the top of the Serie A table, level on points with defending champions Juventus heading into the winter break.

The 26-year-old has 12 league goals to his name in 2019-20, two more than Ronaldo. Lazio's Ciro Immobile is the only player to have scored more than Lukaku in Italy's top flight so far this season.

Squawka Football compared his form to last season at Manchester United:

Squawka Football @Squawka

Romelu Lukaku has now scored as many league goals for Inter this season as he managed for Man Utd last campaign. 2018/19: 32 games, 12 goals 2019/20: 17 games, 12 goals Back doing what he does best. https://t.co/VefA650WCK

Belgium manager Roberto Martinez told Corriere dello Sport (h/t Football Italia) that Lukaku is enjoying success in Italy because "there's a feeling between him and Conte" and he is "more at ease."

Lukaku has often faced criticism throughout his career for missing chances but is enjoying a new lease of life in Serie A where Conte seems to be getting the best out of the 26-year-old.