'Inter sold Lukaku for €115 million and got Dzeko for free' - Marotta's latest transfer masterstroke

Edin Dzeko Inter Spezia Serie A 2021-22Getty/GOAL

Beppe Marottahas done it again. And he knows it.

Did the Inter CEO want to sell Romelu Lukaku during the summer? Not at all.

But as soon as the Belgium international decided that he had unfinished business at Stamford Bridge, cash-strapped Inter were always going to sell the striker to Chelsea for the right price.

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Of course, Lukaku's departure left the Nerazzurri with a massive void front, and the man that Marotta chose to fill it didn't exactly fill the fans with confidence.

It wasn't that they didn't rate Edin Dzeko, it was more that they would have liked to see him arrive two years ago, when former boss Antonio Conte first wanted to sign the Bosnian.

Dzeko, after all, turned 35 in March and was coming off the back of an tumultuous campaign at Roma which had yielded just seven Serie A goals.

So, bringing in an ageing forward to replace one of the game's most devastating No.9s felt horribly underwhelming as far as Inter supporters were concerned.

Now, though, it's looking like yet another transfer masterstroke from Marotta, the man renowned for picking up quality players on free transfers.

“Lukaku was sold for €115 million (£98m/$130m) and we bought Dzeko for nothing," Marotta told the Corriere della Sera. "And, on the pitch, there isn’t much difference."

Beppe Marotta Romelu Lukaku Edin Dzeko Inter GFXGetty/GOAL

Such a statement would have appeared utterly ludicrous just a few months ago. Now, though, it's difficult to disagree.

If anything, the comparison flatters Lukaku, who is struggling to adapt to Thomas Tuchel's brand of football at Chelsea.

The man who fired Inter to the Scudetto last season with 24 goals in 36 games has struck just three times in the 2021-22 Premier League.

An injury hasn't helped, of course, but Lukaku was looking lost long before he was sidelined with an ankle problem.

Dzeko, meanwhile, is feeling right at home at Inter.

He has 11 goals in all competitions for the Nerazzurri, including eight in Serie A.

His most recent strike came against former side Roma at the Stadio Olimpico on Saturday evening. He admirably refused to celebrate but, inside, Dzeko must have been delighted.

Firstly, it was a fine finish, with the former Manchester City forward cleverly peeling off his marker, Marash Kumbulla, before coolly guiding a left-footed shot into the top corner of the Roma goal.

Secondly, it ended a run of six Serie A games without a goal for Dzeko and centre-forwards are always judged by their strike-rate.

Edin Dzeko Inter Roma Serie A 2021-22 GFXGetty/GOAL

At no point during that mini-drought, though, was anyone questioning Dzeko's contribution to the Inter cause.

He may occasionally frustrate when he snatches at seemingly straightforward chances but his all-round game remains exemplary, with his hold-up play proving as integral to Simone Inzaghi's Inter as Lukaku's was to Conte's.

Like Lukaku, he's also formed a fruitful partnership with Lautaro Martinez. Indeed, even when one of them doesn't start, they remain in close contact.

Lautaro was an unused substitute at the weekend but the Argentine took advantage of a break in play during the first half to have a word with his regular strike partner.

It's also clear that there is a huge amount of respect between Dzeko and Inzaghi.

The pair faced one another many times in the Rome derby, so it was no surprise to learn that Inzaghi was fully behind Marotta's decision to move for Dzeko, believing him to be the best possible replacement for Lukaku.

Age was irrelevant as far as the ex-Lazio boss was concerned: "Edin is one of the best strikers around. I'm happy to have the chance to coach him.

"He can carry an attack by himself but he also works well with others."

It is certainly worth remembering that there were doubts over Dzeko's mobility, fears that he lacked the requisite Lukaku-like pace to excel alongside Lautaro.

However, his own attributes – strength, intelligent movement and excellent technique – are standing him in good stead.

As he said himself, “Talented players can always work together."

The fact that he is enjoying his football again is also clearly a significant factor in the resurgence of one of the modern game's most underrated strikers.

He had a spectacular falling out with former Roma boss Paulo Fonseca last season but is now loving life under Inzaghi.

"This Inter side is the most offensive team I’ve played in, together with Roberto Mancini’s Manchester City,” Dzeko told the Gazzetta dello Sport.

Dzeko's time at the Eithad now feels like a lifetime ago. It's nine years since he bagged the crucial equaliser in City's famous, title-clinching win over QPR on the most dramatic final day in Premier League history.

And yet here he is, at 35, still banging in the goals for Inter after hitting 119 in 260 games for Roma.

What's more, it was his double against Shakhtar Donetsk a fortnight ago that effectively earned Inter a place in the knockout stage of the Champions League for the first time in a decade.

They would even progress as group winners if they were to beat Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday night.

Unsurprisingly, the humble Dzeko always evades the Lukaku comparison as nimbly as he evades markers.

“Romelu did important things here and Inter must thank him,” he told Sky Sport Italia last month after his man of the match-winning display in the 2-0 win over Shakhtar at San Siro.

"He brought the Scudetto along with Conte, and then he made his choice."

And then Marotta made his, and choosing Dzeko to succeed Lukaku as Inter's No.9 is proving one of his shrewdest ever decisions.

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