He didn’t need much of an introduction to Chelsea fans. He hasn’t needed an introduction to score all season. Romelu Lukaku showed his former employers what he’s capable of. He wrote the script the media had all been dreaming of.
One of the most impressive aspects of Lukaku's season is that his story has gone under the radar. And why wouldn’t it, considering what the likes of Leicester have achieved so far?
Even so, the Belgian is trying to capture some of Leicester’s limelight and shift a fraction of it onto his remarkable season.
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By scoring and assisting consistently throughout the campaign, he’s not only proved his critics wrong, he’s not only finished his former club’s season in March, but he’s shown that he might be the best young player in the country.
There could be more to come too. His late double against Chelsea in the FA Cup quarter-finals - the first of which mimicked a Lionel Messi slalom and frankly lifted a rather dull affair – possibly saved his manager’s job and single-handedly put the Toffees into a strong position to win their first trophy in 21 years.
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Now the former Blues striker can be a bit smug. While Everton aren’t exactly high-flying in the league this season, Lukaku is still playing for a team higher in the division than the club that told him he wasn’t good enough.
This is not to mention a possible trophy at Chelsea’s expense. Something extra for Roman Abramovich and Jose Mourinho to swallow.
But what about Dele Alli?
Tottenham and Dele Alli fans won’t like this of course. How can you deny the award to someone who has climbed up the English pyramid from League One to score for the England national team?
Alli’s achievements certainly shouldn’t be downplayed and if Spurs go on to win the league, I might not have many supporters for this argument. Nevertheless, it’s important to look at the pair’s expectations at the beginning of the season.
Last season Lukaku watched his former club walk to the league title without him, while his current side sat 11th and had to explain why they spent £28 million on the forward. Compare that to Alli’s expectations and you’ll be lucky to find many people who had honestly heard of him before the season kicked off.
There was pressure on the Everton forward this season to perform. He only scored ten goals in 36 matches last campaign and this clearly does not represent value for money. If Lukaku didn’t showcase his ability this time around you feared for where his career was heading.
In comparison, if Alli had made a handful of substitute appearances and scored a couple of goals, we might still be talking about a promising England prospect.
A player transformed...
Everton’s no.10 not only had to prove his price-tag, he had to prove Chelsea and Mourinho wrong. Mourinho's hint that he wasn't too keen on Lukaku while the Belgian was still at the club wasn't subtle. The former Chelsea boss was a known admirer of Didier Drogba, who he spoke about while Lukaku was at Chelsea.
“Drogba’s hold-up play, which is still unmatched,” he said, as quoted by Goal. This was a message to Lukaku - if you don’t improve this part of your game, you won’t make it here.
Now he’s become the full package. Last season he was often isolated at Everton and while Mourinho’s Chelsea climbed the table without Lukaku, it looked like the Portuguese’s decision to sell him was justified.
That was compounded by the Belgian international’s start to this season. Even though Lukaku was scoring left, right and centre at the beginning of the season, he had a strike partner in Arouna Kone. This allowed the former West Brom forward, time and space - something that isn’t usually offered to a top striker at a top club.
Lukaku has all the necessary qualities
Nowadays top teams have one man to lead the line, and the demands of a player to hold that position are that he has to possess all the necessary attributes - quick, strong and can bring others into play.
But ever since Kone dropped out of the team around Christmas, the Belgian striker has shown what he’s been missing.
You only have to look at his assist for Aaron Lennon against West Ham a couple of weeks ago to see how far Lukaku has come this season. He caressed the ball into his feet and cleverly fed the ball into his winger’s path for his goal.
It is probably surprising to many people that he can actually qualify for the Young Player of the Year award. We sometimes forget that he’s 22-years-old. He was told at a young age he couldn’t make it at Chelsea, and now he has scored five more league goals than all of Chelsea’s strikers combined.
He’s been proving his critics and doubters all season. Yes, not as much as Claudio Ranieri and Leicester, but that doesn’t mean Lukaku’s efforts should go unnoticed.
Do you think that Lukaku deserves to win this season's Young Player of the Year Award? Give your opinion in the comment box below.