No one laughing at Lukaku-Dybala swap now

Carlo Garganese

It’s almost been forgotten now but, in the summer of 2019, Romelu Lukaku very nearly became a Juventus player.

Lukaku had made the decision to quit Manchester United and move to Italy after a miserable 2018-19 season both on and off the pitch.

Initially, it had seemed as if Lukaku would join Inter and the club’s new coach Antonio Conte, a long-term admirer of the Belgian.

But when Inter and Man Utd struggled to agree on a fee, Juventus darted in with their own offer.

Juventus offered Paulo Dybala in exchange for Lukaku, and a deal was soon agreed between the two clubs. Lukaku also accepted the transfer and agreed personal terms with Juve.

Paulo Dybala is a fan favourite at Juventus

Paulo Dybala is a fan favourite at Juventus

The proposed transfer caused fury among Juventus supporters, with Dybala a fan favourite and the club’s most prestigious and gifted player after Cristiano Ronaldo.

The deal was also mocked by football fans in general, with Lukaku considered as very much a figure of fun at the time. Branded as overweight, clumsy and with a poor first touch, the overwhelming consensus was that Man Utd were getting the much better side of the bargain.

In the end, though, Dybala refused to move to Man Utd and the exchange collapsed. The Argentine stayed at Juventus, while Lukaku eventually moved to Inter after talks were resurrected.

Just over two years on – and with Lukaku set to take on Juventus in the Champions League on Wednesday with Chelsea – it is clear that the Bianconeri were right to try and swap the two players.

Lukaku reborn at Inter

Under Conte, Lukaku developed into one of the best strikers in the world. In two seasons at Inter, he scored a brilliant 64 goals in 95 games.

Lukaku and Antonio Conte enjoyed bromance at Inter

Lukaku and Antonio Conte enjoyed bromance at Inter

He was an unstoppable force in attack, improving all of the weaknesses in his game such as his link-up play, receiving the ball with his back to goal and his first touch.

Lukaku was Inter’s main man as they won a first Scudetto in 11 years last season.

It was Juventus who Lukaku dethroned as they endured a disastrous 2020-21 campaign, finishing in fourth place. The new campaign has started no better, with two wins and two defeats in their first six matches.

Dybala struggling at Juventus

Dybala has not been the same player during the last three years, despite a good 2019-20 campaign under Maurizio Sarri. He scored only five Serie A goals in 2018-19 and just five in all competitions last term.

Despite not yet turning 28, his body is constantly breaking down. He has missed over a third of Juve’s matches in the last year or so. And when he does play, he is often exhausted by the hour mark and needs to be taken off.

He will miss the Chelsea match after suffering yet another injury on Sunday, being forced off on 21 minutes in tears just after scoring an excellent goal. He will be out for at least three weeks.

Dybala’s contract expires at the end of the season in Turin and the question now is whether he is worth the €8-10 million a season that, prior to Sunday, he was close to agreeing on in a new deal.

Lukaku, meanwhile, is worth every penny of the €115m (£97m) that Chelsea paid Inter this summer. He has scored four goals in his first seven matches back at the club and already has become indispensable.

As Juventus continue to struggle, their fans will now wonder where they may be now if that Lukaku-Dybala swap deal had gone through.