The striker jokingly slated his former Manchester United team-mate for having a heavy first touch but expects him to prove himself in Serie A
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has warned fans not to expect good skill from Romelu Lukaku, with the Swede revealing that his fellow striker turned down a bet that could have improved his first touch and seen him “simply become a better soccer professional”.
Ibrahimovic, whose current contract with the LA Galaxy runs out in December, shared a brief spell alongside Lukaku at Manchester United from 2017-18 before making the decision to try his hand in Major League Soccer.
The 38-year-old has been well known for his wonderful skill despite his enormous 6’5” frame, while Lukaku, now plying his trade under Antonio Conte at Inter, has been accused over the years of being a ‘flat track bully’, relying on strength over everything else to beat his opponents.
In light of that, Ibra revealed that he laid down a bet with his former team-mate, claiming that he would pay the Belgian for every good first touch he made – a wager that Lukaku would turn down.
“I will say this on Romelu,” Ibrahimovic began in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, “don’t expect good skill from Lukaku. His best strength has been sheer power – if only he’d listened to me.
“At Manchester United, we made a bet: ‘I’ll give you £50 for every decent first touch you make’. He replied: ‘What do I win if I get them all right?’ I told him nothing, he would simply become a better soccer professional.
“For the record, he never accepted the bet! Perhaps he was afraid of losing…”
But while the Swedish icon may not be a big fan of Lukaku’s inability to keep a football under his spell, he harbours a great deal of respect for a man driven to prove himself as one of the most valuable striking assets in the game today.
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“Joking aside, Lukaku has this mad hunger to prove himself to the world,” he said. “And I’m sure he will do well at Inter too.”
Ibrahimovic himself spent three years at Inter earlier in his career, scoring 57 Serie A goals across that period, and has left the door open for a return to the Scudetto race with Napoli.
Lukaku, meanwhile, has started life well at the Giuseppe Meazza, netting three times in his first seven matches under Conte.