It seems as if modern day football is the only sphere were one can become a professional at 16 and still have their ability & potential doubted and discussed even though one continues to perform at the elite level and show gradual signs of improvement; which brings be to the question of the day, why do we still continue to doubt and underrate Romelu Lukaku?
Having recently cemented his place in football history by joining the EPL “50 before 23 Club”, becoming the 5th footballer to score 50 Premier League goals before the age of 23, joining an illustrious honour roll that includes Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney & Cristiano Ronaldo; Romelu should be seen as an elite level star when we consider the body of work he has compiled at 22, with the different clubs and philosophies he has played under thrown into consideration. The fact that Lukaku scored no goals for Chelsea in his time at the club is actually laudable in hindsight; Romelu has proven that he is an elite level finisher while excelling at clubs that don’t always provide the quality chances afforded to leading forwards at other top sides in the realm. It comes as no surprise that bigger clubs have been sniffing around Merseyside with the view of signing a player that has now earned the right to compete in Europe and prove his worth against some of the best clubs in the world, yet his gaffer, Roberto Martínez, may have been right to quickly refute those rumoured by adding that his star front man would easily fetch £ 55m in the current market climate; that figure is testament to the potential many saw in the teenager that seemed to bully men twice his age and score goals for fun at an alarming rate.
A boyhood Chelsea fan and a youngster that looked up to Blues legend Didier Drogba, one wouldn’t be remiss to think that Romelu felt hard done by in his time at the club, and rightly so, his performances out on loan were not justly rewarded with a spell in the first team; proving doubters wrong seems to be a driving factor for a young man who doesn’t seem to need much fuel to gas himself up once he gets in his Terminator Zone. Being touted as a young superstar in the making for your entire adult life can have a differing impact on different young players, Romelu seemed to carry the burden of his great potential and rave reviews until they threatened to either break him, or make him a better man; at 22, with a great career ahead of him, and some sound development behind him, the lad seems primed to fulfil and even exceed the expectations many had of the young lad that led scoring charts as a teenager and had scouts raving endlessly about his great future in the game.
Everton have had to deal with tons of transfer speculation regarding their key players over the past 24 months, be it Kevin Mirallas, Ross Barkley, John Stones, or Romelu Lukaku, the club have remained steadfast in their stance and refuse to be held ransom by any party; the investment into this current project has been measured and methodical in many regards and the Toffees will be conscious of the fact that they cannot keep hold of their stars without offering them good remuneration and the opportunity to play regularly at the highest level, European football will be essential for Everton and Bobby Martínez if they seek to sustain their resolve. Inversely, Everton could cash in on one or two assets and have enough in the kitty to go back in the market and rebuild around other talented young prospects with great potential and good resale value; the current crop of stars are on good long-term deals and playing some of their best football at an ambitious club that has the ability to match its lofty ambitions, yet we have seen good projects rebuilt due to players leaving for greener pastures and shinny trinkets.
The transfer speculation has been justified by Romelu’s brilliant numbers and performances this season; having led the attacking line alone for most of his career, Lukaku has now begun to show just how dynamic he can be with is amalgamation of pace, power and precision combining to make for a quintessential modern age striker that scores goals add adds genuine value to an attacking unit. Everton raised many eyebrows when they paid a club record £ 28m to sign Lukaku in July of 2013, Chelsea had doubled their investment on a player they were choosing to discard and it seemed like a brilliant piece of business for the club; hindsight may have us believing that The Blues actually did themselves a disservice in selling a player that could come back to haunt them, on the field, or cost them financially, when the inevitably seek to by him back in years to come. The Toffees seem set to double their investment into Lukaku, should they look to cash in on their star striker; the Romelu doubters are quietly being silenced with each passing season of growth and development, while the finished article may be far from arrival, Bob’s your Lierse S.K. beer mug having uncle, this lad will go down in history as a pretty decent striker when all is said and done.
Full Name: Romelu Menama Lukaku
DoB: May 13th, 1993 (22)
PoB: Antwerp, Belgium
Other Nationality: Congolese
Height: 1, 90m
Position: Advanced Forward, Complete Forward, Target-Man
Preferred Foot: Left
Current Club: Everton FC
Contract Expiry: June 30th, 2019
Youth Development Nests: Rupel Boom (99-03), KFC Wintam (03-04), Lierse (04-06), Anderlecht (06-09)
Former Clubs: Anderlecht (09-2011), Chelsea (2011-2014), West Bromwich Albion (2012-2013; Loan), Everton (2013-2014; Loan)
Market Value: £21m
Asking Price: £ 55m
Career Club Record: 248 Games; 105 Goals; 45 Assists
Caps & Goals: Belgium (37 Caps, 11 Goals); u/15 (4 Caps, 1 Goal); u/18 (1 Cap); u/21 (8 Caps, 1 Goal)
The Parisian Project has not truly yielded a great return on investment, for the millions invested, there is no sign of the team improving and taking those extra leaps forward in Europe; winning the league is now a prerequisite for PSG when one considers their vast abundance of talent and riches, combined with the gradual decline of some of their closest rivals thrown in for good measure. The current offensive line has been in need of a face-lift for 18-odd months and now the missing piece seems to be a young elite level ready talent to lead an exciting attacking line that would include the dynamic duo of Lucas Moura and Ángel Di María; Romelu Lukaku would fit the bill perfectly as he would continue to develop at a high level and grow with another ambitious group of players that have the potential to truly flourish at the elite level.
The PSG link is considered unrealistic by those that feel as if Romelu may not be the marquee buy the club would need to lure in as a direct replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimović, yet the Belgian International would provide the club with a player that can contribute immensely from the onset, while still possessing the scope to grow and develop further into a player they’d be looking to add to their roster in years to come. Romelu Lukaku could be the dynamic figurehead an attacking side like PSG would require if they want to go further in the Champions League during the coming seasons, the lure of becoming s star at one of Europe’s most illustrious clubs and competing for major honours would be hard for any player to snub without due consideration and just merit.
There is an age-old belief in football, that form is temporary while class remains permanent; no truer words can be spoken regarding Juventus and how they managed to rebuild their club, after a shambolic end to an era, and re-establish themselves as a European powerhouse that can compete with the best of them. A new stadium and increased revenue from improved commercial appeal has now enabled the Old Lady of Turin to compete on the transfer market as well, while Italian teams are known to scour the lesser followed territories for talent or buy proven players that are being undervalued at some bigger European clubs, instead of procuring a star for big money from another European rival; Juve seem conscious of the fact that their talisman, Paul Pogba, would be more inclined to leave if he remains one of the truly superstar players on the roster every season. The arrival of a big money buy, or two, could settle any unrest in the Pogba camp and afford the current group an optimal opportunity at succeeding together while capitalising on the great growth experienced by Juve in their rise back to the top.
Romelu Lukaku has the physical and technical gifts to excel in Italian football, and the thought of playing in more of a partnership upfront would be enticing for any forward looking to improve and up their output on the field; if Juventus were looking to rebuild their team around an attacking tandem of Lukaku and Paulo Dybala, they’d potentially create the ideal “Big & Small” striker combination for their flexible and direct style of football. Such a move would require brevity and a genuine interest from all parties, Juve do have the attraction and the pedigree to tempt any player in the realm, yet they would need to step out of their comfort zone a tad bit by investing big money in a signing that could pay off exponentially in years to come.
The two most recent Everton to Arsenal transfers would scare of many thoughts of a Lukaku move to London Colney; Francis Jeffers is the name that comes to mind for many, a “fox-in-the-box” that cost good money and showed little in return during his spell at Arsenal, all after establishing himself as an exciting young talent on Merseyside. Mindful of the fact that we live in a different time, and Romelu is a completely different player, the lessons must be learned if one is to fully grow and actually learn; Arsenal do need a different option upfront, some might add that “quality” would be the operative word to add in that statement, and Romelu Lukaku is dynamic enough to add that extra bit of quality to an already gifted attacking unit.
For all the flack Olivier Giroud catches, he does score some of the endless opportunities he often seems to be provided and that fact cannot be overlooked, the one true flaw in his game is his evident lack of pace and the ability to make definitive runs off the ball when his team is in possession for long period of time; the addition of Lukaku would mean that Arsenal can remain with a focal point or outlet ball at all times, yet they would now also have a big man that can hold it up or get in behind and offer more goalscoring options. The fact that Lukaku is young, talented and proven in the EPL will make one question the feasibility of Le Prof dipping into his vast transfer kitty to sign a player he was rumoured to be close to snatching from under the noses of Chelsea when he was still a teen; one thing is sure, Arsenal have signed lesser forwards than Romelu and the lad would add true quality to their current side, and a Belgian international on your roster is the new accessory in European football.
The “buy-them-cheap, sell-them-steep” transfer policy employed at Chelsea now seems to be questionable when we consider the on-field returns on those investments; Chelsea have been a team in need of a rebuild even prior to winning their title last season, yet they wouldn’t have needed to tap into the market for those replacements, as they had quietly amassed a roster of talented young players befitting of a seasoned Football Manager enthusiast shopping off the Wunderkind Lists made available on the net. Fast forward 24 months, and three of their former charges have developed into the calibre of player needed at Stamford Bridge currently; Marco van Ginkel would have given them more defensive solidity and allowed Cesc Fàbregas to play further forward against more direct opposition, Kevin De Bruyne would have negated the need for an overreliance on Eden Hazard and Willian or aided in the avoidance of Oscar becoming burned out when he should be shining brightest.
Undoubtedly, the biggest loss was that of a player that seemed destined to replace his boyhood hero and become the bullish yet sophisticated striker Chelsea have had since the days of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Tore André Flo; a combination of factors can be attributed to the regrettable departure of Lukaku from Cobham, yet one would be remiss not the think that Romelu would be welcomed back with open arms by all and sundry at Chelsea. The Diego Costa experiment may not last as long as many hoped it would, he has begun to be more disruptive than he is dependable for goals and his dip in form has coincided with a general decline in the team’s ability to be effective under the current systems deployed. A new frontline striker will be needed at Chelsea, sooner rather than later, and the outside bet would be a move for a player that wouldn’t need much time acclimatising to a ground and a jersey he has adored since he was just a boy; the good money would be on whether The Blues have it within them to spend big on buying back a player they shouldn’t have let leave in the first place.