Inter midfielder Nicolò Barella is not worried about Romelu Lukaku’s poor form this season but stresses that the Belgian star must adapt to a new style of play: ‘Antonio Conte’s Inter was built around him.’
The 29-year-old striker returned to the Stadio Meazza after a disappointing season at Chelsea in 2021-22 when he scored just 15 goals in 44 appearances under Thomas Tuchel, failing to justify his €115m price tag.
He has been struggling with injuries this season, scoring just two goals in five appearances with Inter, while the errors against Croatia marked his journey at the World Cup in Qatar.
“His departure [in 2021] had been a huge blow, even for how he arrived for the pre-season,” Barella told Gazzetta.
“There was a special feeling in that group. Conte’s Inter had been built around Lukaku and last season we made something just as beautiful even if he was not there. Now it’s up to him to adapt to a new style of play. We know how strong he is and his desire to do well, especially when he is criticised, that’s why I am not worried.”
Lukaku is currently on holiday after Belgium’s elimination from the World Cup but will soon resume training with Inter. The Nerazzurri face table leaders Napoli in the first match of the year on January 4, 2023.
“The most balanced team and the one that commits the fewer mistakes will win the title,” said Barella.
“For now, Napoli have made no errors, and we committed a lot. But at some point, we gathered to solve the issue and the results are there.”
The Nerazzurri won the last two Serie A games before the break against Atalanta, but are 11 points below the Partenopei.
“I have a rule: I don’t talk about what goes on in the dressing room, but sometimes it’s nice and useful to speak openly and blame yourself before others,” claimed Barella.
“We had lost the plot, we thought everything was due because of what we had won before, that just going to the pitch was enough to win. But this never happens, especially in this league, the most difficult I’ve ever played in. It’s a very long season, with a World Cup in the middle and we still believe we can make it. Our target is the same: try to win the Scudetto.
“Brozo [Marcelo Brozovic] is the best player in the world in front of the defence. Casemiro is also there, but he interprets the role differently. Nobody is like Marcelo in that position.”
Has he given any advice to Milan Skriniar about his contract extension?
“I’ve never let myself give him advice. Everyone makes his decisions and you can assess them at the end of the career. I hope he stays, because he is a great player and because he is like a brother to me,” said Barella.
The Italian midfielder was sent off in the final Champions League group stage game against Real Madrid last season despite Inter being already qualified for the Round of 16. As a result, he received a two-match ban and missed both knock-out matches against Liverpool, who eliminated the Nerazzurri.
“I’ve thought about that red card in Madrid for a long time,” admitted Barella.
“It was bad for those watching. I would have given anything to help my teammates in Liverpool, but that error made me grow and understand that I must control the fieriest part of my character.”