23 out of 25 players were ill’ – Lukaku claims Inter squad had coronavirus symptoms in December


The Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged Europe with Italy particularly badly affected, and the striker says there were warning signs in the Serie A team

Inter striker Romelu Lukaku has claimed that “23 out of 25” players in the Serie A side’s first-team squad had coronavirus symptoms as far back as 2019, but none of them were tested for the virus.

The coronavirus pandemic has swept across Europe causing thousands of deaths, with Italy among the worst-affected countries in the world by the virus.

So far no members of the Inter squad have been confirmed to have had Covid-19, however Belgium international Lukaku has made some remarkable claims about the health of his team-mates before the virus really took hold.

In an Instagram Live interview with Belgian journalist Kat Kerkhofs, Lukaku said: “We had a week off in December, we returned to work and I swear that 23 out of 25 players were ill. I am not kidding. We played against Radja Nainggolan’s Cagliari and after about 25 minutes, one of our defenders had to leave the pitch. He could not continue and almost fainted.”

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The player in question is Inter centre-back Milan Skriniar, who was substituted after 17 minutes of the game on January 26. Inter gave the official reason for his early withdrawal that he had not recovered fully from a bout of flu.

Lukaku said of the game against Cagliari: “Everyone was coughing and had a fever. When I was warming up, I felt a lot hotter than usual. I hadn’t suffered from a fever in years.

“After the game there was a planned dinner with guests from Puma, but I thanked them and went straight to bed. We never did the Covid-19 tests at that moment, so we’ll never know for sure.”

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The first official case of coronavirus in Italy was not reported until February 21.

Away from Covid-19 – which has caused all major European football, including Serie A, to be suspended – Lukaku spoke warmly about the close-knit community feel in the Inter squad.

Lukaku moved to Italy last summer after a mixed spell with Manchester United, and said the players felt closer as a unit in Italy than they did in England.

He said: “We’ve got seven players who all live in the same street. The difference with England is enormous, as there we’d go out to dinner about once every four months, whereas here it’s every four weeks.”

After leaving boyhood club Anderlecht aged 16, Lukaku played in the Premier League for ChelseaWest BromEverton and United before moving to Inter, and said that at the end of his career he would like to return home before possibly moving into coaching.

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He said: “I dream of ending at Anderlecht, so the circle will be closed and I will have been a professional footballer for 20 years. Then I would like to travel and let it all go. I will never become a commentator, but now I am taking a training course. Who knows, maybe I will become a coach.”

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