It seems certain that Chelsea will spend big on a new striker this summer, despite the fact one of Europe’s most prolific young forwards is ready - right now - to lead the Blues’ forward line.
Romelu Lukaku was loaned out to Everton at the start of the season, but the 20-year-old has proved over the course of the current campaign that Jose Mourinho made a big mistake allowing him to leave the club last summer.
After scoring 17 Premier League goals in 35 matches with West Brom last season - aged 19 - he has managed to net 13 goals in 28 appearances this term at Goodison Park. That’s 30 Premier League goals in 63 matches. For a striker who hasn’t yet turned 21, these are hugely impressive figures.
The young Belgian, who has already appeared on 27 occasions for his national team and will start for the Red Devils in Brazil this summer, has also provided an eye-catching 16 assists during these last two Premier League campaigns.
Mourinho’s claims that Lukaku wasn’t ready for first-team action at Stamford Bridge have ended up looking more and more ridiculous with each passing month. Then again, the revered Portuguese coach has never been a big believer in young players. It shouldn’t have come as a huge surprise to discover he didn’t trust the boy who was brought to Chelsea in August 2011 for an initial £10m fee.
The relationship between Mourinho and Lukaku has become increasingly strained over the past nine months - with the Chelsea boss even hinting his young striker should quit talking - and there’s a growing belief that Chelsea will sell if the right offer comes along this summer.
If reports are accurate, the Blues will accept a bid in the region of £25m - and both Tottenham and Arsenal are keen to take Lukaku off Mourinho’s hands.
This is one transfer window tug-of-war that Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger can ill-afford to lose. Regardless of whether or not the French coach decides to keep Olivier Giroud at the Emirates Stadium next season, Lukaku could help the Gunners end their long wait for a Premier League title.
While Lukaku is similar in stature to Giroud - in fact, he’s bigger, despite being seven years younger than the France international - he’s far more mobile, braver, and a much better finisher. Giroud has netted four fewer Premier League goals over the last two seasons, despite being presented with more opportunities to score in a far superior team.
Just imagine the damage Lukaku would cause when receiving service from the likes of Mesut Ozil, Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott. Given Wenger’s track record of helping young players fulfil their potential, we’re talking about a striker who will, in a few years time, be capable of scoring upwards of 25 Premier League goals every season.
It might not even take Lukaku that long to become the best striker - of his style - in the Premier League. And, assuming the Gunners would be a far more dangerous outfit with Lukaku leading their line instead of Giroud, who’s to say the north London outfit wouldn’t win next season’s Premier League title?
Mourinho has already strengthened Manchester United by agreeing to sell Juan Mata during his first season back at Chelsea, now Arsenal must also ensure that they capitalise on the Portuguese coach’s odd ability to alienate himself from his most talented players.