Romelu Lukaku must rediscover the form that fired Inter to the Scudetto in 2021 should he return to the Nerazzurri, former Italy striker Christian Vieri has said.
Lukaku scored 24 goals under the stewardship of Antonio Conte as Inter lifted the Serie A title in the 2020-21 campaign, before returning to Chelsea for a club-record £97.5million fee.
The Belgium international struggled on his Stamford Bridge return, scoring just eight times in 26 Premier League appearances.
Lukaku is widely expected to head back to Inter on loan less than a year after leaving, as Simone Inzaghi looks to assemble his side to reclaim the Scudetto from fierce rivals Milan.
The 29-year-old will hope to regain the confidence he had during his two-year spell with Inter, with no Nerazzurri player scoring more times (64), providing more assists (17) or creating as many chances (133) in all competitions in that period.
Vieri understands the pressure of a big-money move, having joined Inter in a then world-record €49m transfer in 1999 from Lazio, but insists Lukaku must find the old version of himself with the Nerazzurri.
“I wouldn’t want to talk about players who haven’t signed yet. We’ll see how it ends, the teams are working to become stronger and stronger,” Vieri said on his podcast.
“He is still a great player, he has scored many goals all over the world. Last year he did very badly with Chelsea, few games and very few goals.
“If he returns, he will have to prove that he is the Lukaku seen at Inter.”
While Inzaghi will be delighted to bolster his attacking ranks, with Paulo Dybala also reportedly set to arrive from Juventus, not all at Inter are keen to welcome Lukaku back.
After Lukaku expressed his desire to return to Inter in a controversial interview in December, the Nerazzurri supporters group Curva Nord unveiled a banner, stating: “It doesn’t matter who runs away in the rain, what matters is who stays in the storm. Bye Romelu”.
Curva Nord issued another statement on Wednesday, assuring they have not forgotten about Lukaku’s exit to Chelsea that they felt betrayed the Nerazzurri.
“He was supported and treated like a king, now he is one like another player,” the group posted on Instagram. “We took note of Lukaku’s betrayal and we were very upset.
“To a footballer these things can be forgiven over time, but they remain. Let us also be clear to everyone that we will never cheer against Lukaku if he wears the Inter shirt again.
“However, we invite all Inter fans not to fall into the trap of running immediately and drooling after him.
“In addition to a clear instinctive emotional aspect, pretending that nothing has happened, would only give a further acceleration to that process that has been going on for years aimed at making us all stupid and supine consumers.”