Everton striker Romelu Lukaku has praised former manager Jose Mourinho, labelling the Chelsea boss as "the best coach of the past ten years".
The Belgium international's comments in the build-up to this weekend's Merseyside derby clash against Liverpool at Anfield are somewhat surprising given the poor treatment he appeared to receive from the Portuguese tactician during their shared time at Stamford Bridge.
When Mourinho returned to west London for his second spell in charge of the Blues in the summer of 2013, he sent Lukaku out on loan to Goodison Park despite a clear lack of quality strikers in his first-team squad.
The 21-year-old enjoyed a productive season-long spell with the Toffees last season, so much so that when the opportunity to join Roberto Martinez's side permanently presented itself in July he was quick to make the transfer permanent.
It was initially assumed that Lukaku would finally be given a chance to prove himself at Chelsea in 2014/15 off the back of his impressive performances in the Premier League with West Brom and Everton.
However, after Mourinho paid £32 million to sign Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid it soon became clear that the former Anderlecht star did not feature in the first-team plans, prompting a £28 million move to Merseyside.
Lukaku's arrival at Everton in a club-record deal represented a huge statement of intent from Martinez, who agreed to pay the talented marksman wages of £70,000-a-week to secure his services.
After leaving Stamford Bridge the Blues went on to complete additional deals for Didier Drogba and Loic Remy, so Lukaku could be forgiven for holding frustration that things never worked out for him in the capital.
But, instead the talisman looks back fondly on his time at Chelsea and credits Mourinho for playing an important role in his development during the formative years of his career as a professional footballer.
Romelu Lukaku quote:
"I have worked with, in my eyes, maybe the best manager of the last 10 years, Jose Mourinho," Lukaku is quoted by The Express.
"To see the desire in his eyes to win a game helped me a lot even though people were saying this and that about us. I have a lot of respect for him as a manager and a human being.
"He was the one who supported both the permanent and loan move. He knew I loved football too much and that I needed to play."
His Chelsea departure was ultimately a surprise given that many saw Lukaku as a natural successor to Drogba when he first departed Stamford Bridge in 2012. Few would've predicted that the Belgian would've left so soon prompting a return for the club legend two years later at the age of 36.