Romelu Lukaku burst on the European footballing scene as a burly, Drogba-esque goal machine in Belgium, after leading Anderlecht to the Belgian league title,in 2009/10 season.
As is always the case whenever a young, hugely talented player emerges in Europe, there was an immediate scramble for the ‘new Didier Drogba’, a race eventually won by Chelsea, who tied him down to a 5-year deal.
The length of the contract was an indication of the confidence and investment in the then 18-year-old and as such, the future never looked brighter.
However it did not quite start that well for him in west London and he had a dismal first season at the club, struggling to nail down a starting spot.
It had started to look like his case was to follow the same path trodden by so many other young, promising talents who waste away after making the over-ambitious and overzealous move to a much bigger club before time, but there was just something uniquely different about this particular talent.
You see, Lukaku is the archetypal old-fashioned forward.
He possesses the old school traits made famous by the likes of Gerd Muller and Marco van Basten. He is strong, bullish, quite pacey for his huge frame, has an immaculate touch and most importantly, as is the case with the two legends aforementioned, knows where the goal is and how to find it.
So all these taken into account, it became a question of when, not if, Lukaku would get the chance to show and prove his talent.
That chance finally came when he was loaned out to West Bromwich Albion for the 2012-13 season.
Game time brings opportunity, exactly what the young Belgian needed and he grabbed the chance with both hands. Lukaku struck 17 times for West Brom and was a major reason they avoided the drop.
Those games came in only 20 starts for the club, a fantastic strike rate which placed him among the very best in Europe, let alone the Premier League. His goals against Liverpool and the final day hat trick in Sir Alex Ferguson’s last match as United manager, a game in which he came on in the 60th minute to strike three times stand out the most and go some way towards highlighting his enormous talent.
This season was supposed to be Chelsea’s chance to reap the benefits and all through the summer pre-season matches for the Blues, Lukaku and Chelsea looked like they were about to consummate their union. That did not happen.
Despite Jose Mourinho insisting that the 20-year-old remained part of his plans for the forthcoming campaign, the courtship of United’s Wayne Rooney, coupled with Mourinho starting his match against United without a recognised center forward and the arrival of Samuel Eto’o, was a smack betrayal of those comments.
The Chelsea boss effectively showed the world that he had no faith in his current forward line and to some extent, you can see why. Fernando Torres scored seven times for Chelsea in the league last season, Demba Ba has struck just twice since his January arrival but then begged the question, what about Lukaku?
Well, he is now bagging in the goals as anticipated…but not for his parent club.
Lukaku has already outscored all of the Chelsea forwards so far, having struck thrice and assisted once.
His performance against Newcastle must have been gut-wrenching for Mourinho and all Chelsea-affiliates.
It was superb center-forward play, just what his parent club is lacking. Lukaku was dominant in a peerless first half performance, tearing Newcastle’s backline to shreds with his mazy runs, hold up play, power, skill and link up play. His brace will no doubt earn him a place in the hearts of the Evertonians already and with the sort of start he has had, I would not bet against him hitting the 20 goal mark this year…heck, even going past it.
Robin van Persie you have been warned, Jose Mourinho, you will regret.
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