Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will face no more than a fine for their heated clash during the Coppa Italia game between Inter and AC Milan on January 26.
Lukaku claimed he had been the subject of racist insults – with Ibrahimovic alleged to have made references to “voodoo rites” about the Belgian’s mother – but the Swedish forward denied using racist language in the spat.
It led to an Italian FA investigation into the matter, which has rejected claims of racism but has found both players, who are former Manchester United team-mates, guilty of unsportsmanlike conduct.
The pair could be seen – and heard on television due to the San Siro being empty – exchanging insults as Lukaku had to be restrained by his team-mates as he attempted to confront Ibrahimovic.
They were both given yellow cards following the ill-tempered argument, which occurred just before half-time and continued into the tunnel during the interval.
Ibrahimovic, who had given Milan a first-half lead, was sent off after picking up a second yellow card after the break, while Lukaku levelled with a penalty before Christian Eriksen struck a stoppage-time winner for Inter to send them through with a 2-1 win.
The clubs met again on February 21, this time in Serie A, with Inter beating their rivals 3-0. The teams are currently first and second in the Italian top flight with 12 games left, with Inter holding a six-point lead at the top.
The Italian FA probe has now been closed and both players will be able to negotiate reduced penalties if they accept the decision.
Lukaku and Ibrahimovic’s encounter at the San Siro was the latest chapter in their running saga which began when the two were team-mates at Old Trafford.
Lukaku said in an interview with Tiki Taka ahead of their first encounter in Serie A: “Ibra is a champion, I respect him. In Manchester I could train every day with him, that was the most beautiful thing for me. It will be nice to play against him. He is a great champion and professional.
“For me it’s not normal that he can do those things at his age. He works a lot; he always gave me advice when we played together in Manchester.”
But in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport in 2019, the 39-year-old Swede was far from complimentary when discussing Lukaku’s technique and said he made a bet with the forward while the pair were together at United – which was turned down.
“I will say this on Romelu: don’t expect good technique from Lukaku. His best strength is sheer power. If only he’d listened to me,” Ibrahimovic said.
“At Manchester United, we made a bet: ‘I’ll give you £50 for every decent first touch you make’.
“He replied: ‘What do I win if I get them all right?’ I told him nothing, he would simply become a better player. For the record, he never accepted the bet! Perhaps he was afraid of losing?! Joking aside, Lukaku has this mad hunger to prove himself to the world and I’m sure he will do well at Inter too.”
Back in February 2020, Lukaku scored in the final minute to complete a 4-2 win over Milan and he posted on social media a “new king” was in town, inferring he had dethroned Ibrahimovic in the Italian city.
Ibrahimovic and Milan had previously stated the Swede’s second spell with the Rossoneri marked the “return of the king”.
Kick It Out reporting racism
Kick It Out is football’s equality and inclusion organisation – working throughout the football, educational and community sectors to challenge discrimination, encourage inclusive practices, and campaign for positive change.
Kick It Out’s new chief executive Tony Burnett recently sat down with Sky Sports to discuss the ongoing fight against online hate in football.