On Saturday, Simone Inzaghi's Inter were struggling to score the opening goal against Salernitana until the Italian manager decided to replace Alexis Sanchez with Lautaro Martinez, who started from the bench for the first time this season. Inter's new captain only needed seven minutes before scoring the first goal of the night, thanks to a great play and assist from Marcus Thuram. He was just getting started.
The match ended 4-0, with four goals scored by Lautaro, who proved once again to be one of the best strikers around at the moment. Inter won and remained in first place in the Serie A table, alongside AC Milan, who a few hours before managed to win against Lazio. The city rivals are both currently at the top of the table with 18 points after seven games, and it looks like this will be another exciting season for the two teams that could go down to the wire like two seasons ago.
Lautaro's numbers have been impressive this season. He has already scored 10 goals across all the competitions -- nine Serie A goals and one against Real Sociedad in the opening away game of the 2023-24 UEFA Champions League group stage. The Argentinian striker has been very solid in the box with an xG of 5.07 and 13 shots on target. On one side, it looks like he's currently overperforming in front of goal, but also it means that he's more clinical than before, something that he needed to improve upon in the past years, where he lacked consistency on some occasions.
Lautaro's game against Salernitana made history as he became the first player ever in the Italian league to score four goals as a substitute and showed that he has improved his impact inside the box. When he arrived at Inter, Lautaro was considered more as a No. 10, a player that could help the central striker playing behind the No. 9. Many things changed, and Lautaro improved plenty since his arrival from Racing Club in the summer of 2018.
Inter managed to sign him thanks to the job of club' vice-president and club legend Javier Zanetti, who personally traveled to Buenos Aires to convince him alongside sporting director Piero Ausilio, after the player already agreed a deal to sign with Atletico de Madrid. However, Zanetti convinced Lautaro that Inter was the right place to go, similarly as other Argentinians did in the past, such as Diego Milito, who at the time was the sporting director of Racing.
The story between Lautaro and Inter had some key, defining moments, but it didn't start so well as coach Luciano Spalletti saw in Lautaro the backup striker of another Argentinian striker, Mauro Icardi, and he didn't play as much as he wished in his first months at the club. When Icardi was stripped of the armband and decided to fight with the Italian side, Lautaro was ready to shine and immediately started to score goals, making it easier for Spalletti to exclude Icardi from the squad.
The second defining moment of the story between Lautaro and Inter arrived in the summer of 2019 when the Nerazzurri appointed Antonio Conte as new coach, replacing Spalletti. Conte immediately saw in Lautaro the ideal striker to play alongside Romelu Lukaku, making him the player who could play some meters behind Big Rom. Lukaku and Lautaro became one of the best duos in recent history of the club, the so called Lu-La combo.
Martinez scored 21 goals in his second season at the club and 19 the season after when Inter won the Scudetto. In the summer of 2021, both Conte and Lukaku left Inter, but Lautaro decided to stay despite multiple offers coming from outside the country. Over the years, Lautaro improved his confidence and numbers, especially after last year when he won the 2022 World Cup with Argentina and reached the Champions League final.
With the arrival of Inzaghi, Lautaro became even more central in the project of the coach, as Edin Dzeko replaced Lukaku during the 2021-22 season. Last season, when Lukaku re-joined Inter for one year, the only doubt was who was going to play alongside Lautaro, defining him as the most important striker on the roster. Lautaro performed well and scored 28 goals in all competitions, reaching the UEFA Champions League final and scoring the crucial goal in the second leg of the semifinals against AC Milan. This summer, after the farewell of Samir Handanovic, Inzaghi decided to make Lautaro the new captain of the club.
Season after season, he embraced the spirit of the team, until he became one of the most iconic players on the current roster, especially after what happened with Lukaku last summer. The Belgian striker refused to return and the deal didn't go through. Lautaro, as friend and new captain of the club, also tried to understand what was going on with him, but Lukaku refused to speak with his former teammate and didn't answer his phone calls. The two will play against each other this month on Oct. 29 when Lukaku makes his comeback to the San Siro.
The new season started off as never before, as he already scored ten goals in eight games and the chemistry with his new teammate Marcus Thuram is working perfectly. The French striker plays behind Lautaro and the duo is improving game after game. The last time Inter had two strikers playing so well together it ended with the 2020-21 Scudetto win. Inter fans hope that the ending will be similar this season.