Lukaku on loan for €8m - Transfer market master Marotta has done it again!

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The man, the myth, the legend. Beppe Marotta has done it again...

Beppe Marotta is once again being hailed as the master of the transfer market after bringing Romelu Lukaku back to Inter on loan, a year after selling him to Chelsea for £97.5 million ($119m).

It certainly looks like another excellent bit of business from one of the most revered characters in Italian football, one who began his career in calcio by taking charge of the youth sector of his hometown club, Varese, when he was still only 19 years of age.

Marotta then earned himself a reputation as a shrewd sporting director during spells at various mid-level clubs, such as Monza, Como, Ravenna and Venezia, before really starting to rise to prominence at Atalanta.

However, it was fine work at his next club, Sampdoria, that brought him to the attention of Juventus, who were in a state of utter disarray when he arrived in Turin in 2010.

Within a year, though, Marotta had laid the foundations of an unprecedented era of Serie A success, with Juve winning nine consecutive Scudetti thanks primarily to his managerial appointments and inspired signings.

However, after sensationally leaving Juve in 2018 following a falling-out with his fellow directors, Marotta joined bitter rivals Inter and promptly set about knocking his former club off their perch.

The Nerazzurri's 2021 title triumph represented further vindication of Marotta's methods and cemented his status as arguably the most influential director in the game today.

Below, GOAL runs through the best bargain buys of what has been an incredible career to date...

  1. Andrea Barzagli - €300,000
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    Andrea Barzagli - €300,000

    Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci always drew more attention than the other member of the 'BBC', Andrea Barzagli.

    That was understandable, of course. Chiellini may have been a master of the dark arts but he was also a warrior. It was hard to miss him, given he was so often sporting a blood-stained bandage on his head.

    Bonucci, meanwhile, became renowned for his wonderful distribution of the ball, with his long passes from deep often leading to goals.

    Barzagli's role was far less eye-catching but just as integral to both Juve's and Italy's success.

    A quiet, humble character, he simply got on with his job: which was usually marking forwards and wingers out of the game.

    He was often charged with tracking players far quicker than himself but he was rarely caught out, so brilliant was his positional play.

    Barzagli is one of the most under-rated centre-backs of the modern era and, as a €300,000 (£260,000/$315,000) signing from Wolfsburg in 2011, a Marotta masterstroke.

  2. Andrea Pirlo - Free
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    Andrea Pirlo - Free

    "When Andrea [Pirlo] told me that he would come to Juve," Gianluigi Buffon revealed in 2011, "the first thing that I said was 'Thank God!'"

    The Juve captain's joy was understandable.

    In what will be remembered as one of the worst appraisals in football history, AC Milan had concluded midway through the 2010-11 season that the 31-year-old Pirlo was past it.

    As a result, they allowed him to run down his contract and join Juve on a free transfer.

    It was, as Buffon predicted, "the deal of the century".

    Pirlo, driven by the desire to make a mockery of Milan's decision to ditch him, immediately transformed a Juve side coming off the back of two seventh-placed finishes into champions.

    The reinvigorated regista won four Scudetti in total in Turin, and was named Serie A Player of the Year in 2012, 2013 and 2014.

    Not just one of Marotta's greatest ever deals, one of the best in football history.

  3. Arturo Vidal - €10.5m
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    Arturo Vidal - €10.5m

    Arturo Vidal has undeniably frustrated fans during recent stints at Barcelona and Inter but the Chilean was a true force of nature at his peak.

    Indeed, for the majority of his four years at Juventus between 2011 and 2015, there was arguably no better box-to-box midfielder in world football.

    He really could do it all, which makes his €10.5m (£9m/$11m) acquisition from Bayern Leverkusen one of best bits of business in Juve's history.

    Pirlo and Pogba provoked plenty more headlines, for a variety of reasons, but Juve's re-emergence as the dominant force in Italy, and a major power in Europe, simply would not have been possible without Vidal's relentless running and tenacious tackling.

    Indeed, while Marotta may be renowned for his free transfers, he also knows a bargain buy when he sees one, and Vidal was certainly that.

  4. Stephan Lichtsteiner - €10m
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    Stephan Lichtsteiner - €10m

    It takes two to make a pass, so while Pirlo's precision and vision makes things a whole lot easier for any attacking side, the playmaker wouldn't have enjoyed quite so much success at Juve if he hadn't had willing runners.

    Stephan Lichtsteiner was undoubtedly one of his most talented targets, with the Swiss effectively serving as a wide receiver to Pirlo's quarterback.

    Indeed, they showed exactly what they would be all about just 16 minutes into Juve's 2011-12 season-opener, with Pirlo lofting a wonderfully-weighted ball into the penalty area that Lichtsteiner controlled before rounding the goalkeeper and slotting home.

    The buccaneering right-back would go on to make a colossal contribution to Juve's Serie A dominance under Conte, as well as their run to the 2015 Champions League final.

    Indeed, he proved perfect for Conte's 3-5-2 formation, and Marotta had made it happen, prising him away from Lazio for just €10m (£8.6m/$10.5m) as Lichtsteiner had just one year left on his contract at the time.

  5. Paul Pogba - Free
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    Paul Pogba - Free

    "The word 'mistake' is not something you would normally associate with Alex Ferguson’s time at Manchester United," Zinedine Zidane once said. "But I do think it was a mistake letting Paul Pogba leave."

    And a costly one at that.

    Ferguson blamed Mino Raiola for Pogba's departure, later revealing that he and the Italian agent disliked one another from their first meeting, as well as accusing Raiola of unsettling the Frenchman.

    Raiola, meanwhile, claimed that the Scot and the club had undervalued Pogba.

    "I told Ferguson for that money, my chihuahua would not walk on the grass of the training centre," he later revealed in an Amazon Prime documentary on his client.

    Whatever the truth, the fact of the matter is that United lost a player on a free transfer that they bought back in 2016 for a world-record £89m ($108m) fee, after Pogba had proven himself one of the most gifted midfielders in the world by helping Juve win four consecutive Serie A titles.

    From start to finish, a transfer market masterclass from Marotta.

  6. Carlos Tevez - €9m
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    Carlos Tevez - €9m

    Manchester City welcomed Carlos Tevez with opened arms in the summer of 2009 but they couldn't wait to get rid of him after his infamous touchline row with Roberto Mancini in Munich two years later.

    However, no other elite European sides really wanted to have anything to do with the talented but temperamental Argentine attacker.

    That was, until, Marotta came calling in 2013 with an offer of €9m (plus a potential €6m in bonuses).

    City were only too happy to accept, as it resulted in the removal of one of their highest earners from the wage bill.

    From Juve's perspective, though, it was an absolute steal, as Tevez was a world-class talent, as he proved in Turin.

    It wasn't just that he scored freely, netting 50 times across two seasons, he transformed the Bianconeri attack, which had long been a strong side's weak link.

    Juve won back to back titles, with Tevez dovetailing brilliantly with whomever he was paired with in attack (usually either Fernando Llorente or Alvaro Morata), while, in 2015, they also reached their first Champions League final in 12 years.

  7. Patrice Evra - €1.2m
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    Patrice Evra - €1.2m

    Patrice Evra will be remembered as one of Manchester United's best-ever transfers because the £5.5m ($6.7m) signing from Monaco proved himself one of the best left-backs in the world during eight seasons at Old Trafford.

    The Frenchman's very best days were behind him when Marotta brought him to Juventus in 2014 for just £1.2m (£1m/$1.25m) and he would only spend two-and-a-half years in Turin.

    However, Evra didn't just make a noteworthy contribution on the field, he also made a massive impact off it, making him one of the Bianconeri's best bargain buys.

    Indeed, Evra helped Juve win back-to-back doubles, and reach the final of the 2014-15 Champions League.

    It was the way in which he completely bought into the club's culture, though, that really endeared himself to fans.

    His team-mates, meanwhile, absolutely loved him for both his inspirational professionalism, admirable honesty and fantastic sense of humour.

    Quite simply, one of the greatest additions Marotta has ever made to a dressing room.

  8. Nicolo Barella - €37m
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    Nicolo Barella - €37m

    During Nicolo Barella's time at Cagliari, the Gazzetta dello Sport labelled him 'The Sardinian Steven Gerrard'.

    Fabio Capello, meanwhile, said he reminded him of Marco Tardelli.

    The one thing everyone agreed on was that Barella was a special talent, which is why Marotta deserves immense credit for not only persuading the in-demand midfielder to join Inter – but also signing him for a grand total of €37m (an initial €12m loan made permanent for a further €25m).

    Barella is now worth at least twice that figure, having since become a regular for both club and country.

    Indeed, with his boundless energy and wonderful right foot, Barella was one of the driving forces behind Inter's 2020-21 Scudetto success, and Italy's Euro 2020 triumph.

    There is still little agreement on which great player Barella most resembles – Azzurri team-mate Jorginho recently compared him to N'Golo Kante because of his remarkable ability to recover possession – but his status as one of Marotta's best buys is not up for discussion.

  9. Achraf Hakimi - €40m
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    Achraf Hakimi - €40m

    It didn't take Ronaldo long to realise that former club Inter had pulled off a major coup by snapping up Achraf Hakimi in 2020.

    "Sometimes I look at him and I think: 'Ronnie, imagine you and him playing together,'" the Brazil legend told the Gazzetta dello Sport. "We would go at a decent speed!

    "Inter signed an extraordinary player in Hakimi. It was a mistake for Real Madrid to let him go."

    Certainly not for just €40m (£34.5m/$42m).

    Hakimi, who was coming off an excellent two-year loan at Borussia Dortmund, ran riot in Serie A, establishing himself as one of the best attacking wing-backs in the world as an integral part of Antonio Conte's 3-5-2 formation.

    Because of their Chinese owners' pandemic-related financial issues, Inter were unfortunately forced to sell one of their most valuable assets in the summer of 2021, to Paris Saint-Germain.

    But the fact that they made a €20m profit – which could eventually rise to €31m depending on bonuses – on a player acquired just one year before is testament to Marotta's genius.

  10. Christian Eriksen - €27m
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    Christian Eriksen - €27m

    It's not secret that Conte had little interest in bringing Christian Eriksen to Inter during the 2020 January transfer window. He wanted Marotta to reunited him with Vidal instead.

    However, Marotta felt that he simply couldn't pass up the opportunity to sign one of the Premier League's finest playmakers for a knockdown fee, with Eriksen available for just €27m (£23m/$28m) because there were just six months left on his Tottenham contract.

    Eriksen endured a very difficult start to his stint at San Siro. He arrived during the pandemic and was even forced to sleep at the club's training centre while he struggled to find a house during lockdown.

    Conte was also unsurprisingly reluctant to put much faith in Eriksen. However, the Dane eventually won over his coach and eventually became a key member of the 2020-21 title-winners.

    The shame, of course, is that Eriksen was ultimately forced to quit Inter because he was unable to play in Italy after having a heart monitor installed because of the cardiac arrest he suffered at Euro 2020.

    But he simply has to be regarded as a massive Marotta success story given how much Eriksen had to go through to prove himself at San Siro.

  11. Romelu Lukaku - €74m
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    Romelu Lukaku - €74m

    Antonio Conte may have long been adamant that he could take Romelu Lukaku's game to a whole other level but there was plenty of skepticism surrounding Inter's willingness to make the Belgian their club-record signing in 2019.

    Lukaku was, of course, coming off the back of a trying spell at Manchester United, where he had been accused of being unfit – literally – to wear the shirt.

    However, while Marotta and Conte may have sometimes clashed over transfer targets in the past, he was willing to back his coach this time around, and one of the biggest gambles of his career paid off spectacularly.

    Lukaku was reborn in Italy, scoring 64 times in 95 appearances in all competitions, and firing Inter to a first Serie A title in 11 years in the process.

    When the striker then professed his desire to return to Chelsea in 2021, Marotta then helped balance the books at cash-strapped Inter by selling Lukaku for a whopping £97.5m (£119m).

    That fee has been made to look all the more impressive for the fact that Lukaku flopped at Stamford Bridge and is now back at Inter as part of a one-year, €8m loan deal.

    This might just be Marotta's masterpiece....