In football, some playing careers can be eternally intertwined with one another. At times, this is born out of great friendships, like former Inter left-back Maxwell who followed in the footsteps of Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the vast majority of his career, or the iconic partnership between Roberto Mancini and the late Sinisa Mihajlovic.
On other occasions, the unbreakable link can be forged by fierce rivalries. Think of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo who are still trying to outdo one another even with each plying his trade at one end of the world while in the autumn of their playing days.
Finally, some intertwines are simply based on mere coincidences, with fate putting one player in the path of another. This has often been the case for Romelu Lukaku and Paulo Dybala, two stars who repeatedly found themselves thrust within the same plot, whether they like it or not.
Summer of 2019: Dybala Rebuffs Man Utd
It all began in the summer of 2019. Following a slightly underwhelming campaign, Juventus were ready to offload Paulo Dybala, perhaps believing that he was far from the best partner-in-crime for the club’s ultimate star at the time, Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Argentine had his name linked with several top clubs, but the most prominent transfer saga of that transfer session was the one that saw him included in what would have been a ground-shattering exchange deal with Lukaku, who was at the time a Manchester United player.
But while the Belgian had reportedly agreed terms with Juventus, his passage to Turin never materialized. Even though all the other parties were eager to put the deal over the line, the defiant Dybala stood in the way, refusing a move to Old Trafford.
Whether the reasons were sporting, financial or personal, the answer depends on each person’s perspective. Nevertheless, the result is one: Dybala lingered in Turin for three additional years before being shown the door at Continassa in an unceremonious fashion.
As for Lukaku, embarking on an Italian adventure was his inescapable destiny, but he had to make a slight turn, switching his destination from Torino to Milano, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Summer of 2022: Inter Chose Lukaku Over Dybala
Fast forward to the summer of 2022. Inter had just lost their Scudetto crown on the back of an epic title race that saw Milan prevail on the very last round of the season.
Hellbent on bolstering their ranks, the Nerazzurri found themselves facing a major dilemma, as their dire finances meant they could only sign one between Dybala and Lukaku.
Looking back now, one might say that Giuseppe Marotta committed what could arguably be the biggest blunder of his illustrious career when opting to bring back the Belgian from Chelsea on loan rather than signing La Joya on a free transfer.
But truth be told, most fans and observers had agreed with the decision at the time, given Lukaku’s memorable exploits during his original stint at Appiano Gentile.
Big Rom had cemented himself as the most terrifying striker on Italian soil under the guidance of Antonio Conte, spearheading Inter’s charge towards the Scudetto title in 2021 and earning the Serie A MVP award for his efforts.
Moreover, he had forged a devastating striking partnership with Lautaro Martinez. All in all, these factors were too tempting for Inter to resist, prompting them to ditch Dybala in favor of Lukaku in what turned out to be an ill-advised decision.
Summer of 2023: Comrades In Rome
But in an expected twist of fate, the two superstars will now find themselves playing side-by-side under the shadow of the delightful Curva Sud banners at the Olimpico Stadium.
As we all know by now, Lukaku landed in the Italian capital on Tuesday night, putting a merciful end to one of the most disturbing and exhausting soap operas in recent memory.
In hindsight, one might be amazed to see the two men linking up after spending years as opponents and counterparts.
But considering the football gods’ ironic nature, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. With their similar, yet, contrasting career paths, it feels as if those two were always meant to find one another.
Let’s recap their intertwined careers over the past few years: Dybala was a Juventus star whose transfer to Inter never materialized. On the contrary, Lukaku was an Inter bomber whose move to Juventus faltered on two separate occasions.
Moreover, it was the Argentine who blocked the Belgian’s arrival in Turin back in 2019. Lukaku returned the favor last summer by sabotaging Dybala’s free transfer to Inter, as we mentioned above.
In one last striking similarity, La Joya won the Serie A MVP award after leading Maurizio Sarri’s Bianconeri towards the league title in 2020. In the following campaign, Lukaku replicated the same feat, earning both accolades at Inter.
This summer, Lukaku has once again followed in Dybala’s footsteps, albeit in a different plot, one that is more dramatic, overblown and controversial – perfectly befitting the striker’s career.
Yet, the number of common elements is almost unsettling. Similar to the Argentine last year, the Belgian has been notoriously negotiating with both Juventus and Inter, only to end up in the Eternal City, greeted by thousands of Giallorossi fans who flocked to the airport, offering their overwhelming and unwavering support for a man who’s longing for unconditional love.
So following a thorny and miserable summer, Big Rom has now found his haven in the Italian capital. As his new Argentine teammate will tell you, the journey can be daunting, tiresome and filled with hardships, but in the end, all roads lead to Rome.
Whether this will be a jubilant collaboration or a doomed partnership, only time will tell, as several aspects can affect the end result, including injuries and perhaps internal conflicts that are often associated with life at Trigoria.
Needless to say, the start of the campaign was anything but encouraging for Roma who collected a single point from their first two fixtures.
However, the stars have finally aligned for Lukaku and Dybala. So will it be a good omen for the Wolves of the Italian Capital?
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