MILAN (Reuters) – Inter Milan’s new signing Romelu Lukaku has been handed the coveted number nine shirt which previously belonged to Mauro Icardi who was stripped of the captaincy during the course of last season.
Inter posted a photograph of the Belgian forward wearing the shirt on the club’s Instagram account one day after confirming that they had signed him from Manchester United.
Icardi has been Inter’s leading scorer for each of the last five seasons but new coach Antonio Conte, who replaced Luciano Spalletti after last season, has already said the Argentine is not part of his plans.
Other players to have worn the shirt include Brazilian Ronaldo, Cameroon forward Samuel Eto’o and Argentine Hernan Crespo.
Lukaku said that Conte, who won three successive Serie A titles with Juventus and an English Premier League and FA Cup with Chelsea, was one of the main reasons he signed for the club.
“Yes, the coach was a key factor. He’s the best coach in the world: he manages to improve his players, while his career speaks for itself,” Lukaku told Inter’s TV channel.
The 26-year-old was also motivated by the challenge of helping to rebuild Inter, who have spent nearly a decade in the shadow of bitter rivals Juventus.
Inter, who finished fourth in Serie A last season, have not won a major title since the Coppa Italia in 2011 while Juventus have won Serie A for the last eight seasons.
“I needed the challenge where I could help the team build for the future and everything is present here to help me,” he said.
“Here, the foundations are there to do well. Through my commitment and my desire to perform, I want to help this team achieve big things.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge)