Like him or loathe him, few can deny that Jose Mourinho is a manager who rarely plays his cards close to his chest when it comes to expressing his feelings.
Sure the Portuguese coach may have developed a reputation for adopting a stealthy, unsuspecting approach when it comes to the transfer market, but it can’t be said that he ever beats around the bush with the way he conducts himself around a player he doesn’t like. For Mourinho has never been one to suffer players based on their reputation alone, and he often seems to pride himself on having a strict vetting system before he discerns whether or not an individual is suited to his style of play.
Casualties of Mourinho's past
This stringent criteria has resulted in a number of high-profile casualties in the past. At Real Madrid fan favourite Iker Casillas was forced to play second-fiddle - notably for the first time in his career -, and Juan Mata, a perennial crowd-pleaser at Stamford Bridge, was inexplicably flogged to Manchester United in January. Even David Luiz, whose lung-busting surges up the pitch and glowing attitude made him a favourite amongst home fans, couldn’t survive the chop, being served up to Paris Saint-Germain as many expected he eventually would be.
The next name on the list, as The Special One’s demeanour so far since taking over at Chelsea for the second time has made clear, is Romelu Lukaku.
The Belgian striker returned to the club last summer following an inspiring loan spell under Steve Clarke at West Brom, having attracted plenty of attention for bagging 17 Premier League during his time at The Hawthorns. However Mourinho, deciding that he wanted to trust experience rather than youth, opted to send him out on another temporary detail, this time to Everton.
At Goodison last term Lukaku was every bit as lethal as neutrals had been hoping, and Mourinho was left with a sour taste in his mouth, forced to watch as his preferred trio of Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o toiled to little avail. There’s plenty of people of the opinion that it was their deficiencies in front of goal which cost the Blues a more sustained assault on the title.
Yet even now, with Lukaku having finished on 15 goals last season and becoming an increasingly recognised presence when tasked with spearheading an attack with each passing game, Mourinho appears unrelenting on his stance that the 21-year-old is not made for his Chelsea set up. Not only has the Blues boss been actively seeking to add to acquisition of Diego Costa, but recent rumours have suggested he’s even made attempts to organise a Didier Drogba reunion.
Surely if Drogba arrives then Lukaku will be forced to put his future beyond any reasonable doubt by pushing for a move away? The big Ivorian - coincidentally the man many critics compare Lukaku to - offers little more than physical stature and a famous relationship with Chelsea fans now, and his capture, if Mourinho indeed intends to play him, would be the final humiliation to the young striker.
Lukaku moving on
Of course Lukaku wouldn’t be in a position where finding a big club to take him on was difficult, far from it. The 21-year-old has top suitors dotted around Europe, and anyone of them would likely promise him the chance to prove his current manager wrong at a moment’s notice.
Mourinho has made it abundantly clear to all who watch football with their eyes open that he’s really not that interested in developing Lukaku’s abilities within his squad. As was always going to be the case he’s made up his mind and will now refuse to look back.
The only way for the player in question to prove his true worth is by moving himself on with a view to sticking two fingers up to The Special One’s stubbornness.