Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea: The penalty miss that forced him to leave in the first place

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To say nobody saw Romelu Lukaku’s rise to one of the elite strikers in the game coming would be unfair. 

While the Belgian has always had his doubters (who, it should be noted, he’s made to look silly) Lukaku was a prodigious talent at Anderlecht and remained a prolific forward even during his loan spells away from Chelsea

Now the main man at Inter Milan after leading them to a first Serie A title in over a decade, as well as his country’s all-time record goalscorer at the age of just 28, speculation is rife over a potential €110m (roughly £93.9m) move back to Stamford Bridge. 

Chelsea, for all of their success, have been guilty of letting stars of the future go. Indeed, Kevin De Bruyne and Mo Salah are two other examples and the club also paid millions to bring David Luiz back to SW6 only two years after selling him in 2016. 

So, the idea of breaking their transfer record for a man they let leave for £28m in the summer of 2014 must be rather jarring for the money men at the club. Perhaps they’re used to it at this stage but there’s little getting away from the fact they look wrong for selling him in the first place. 

With the transfer rumours in mind, it seems like a good time to reflect on his initial exit. 

Back in 2017, an in-depth article from The Independent revealed that the striker was in Jose Mourinho’s plans for the 2013/14 campaign after a successful loan spell at West Bromwich Albion the season before. 

Then came the Super Cup. 

In one of Mourinho’s first games back in charge of Chelsea, his side squared off against European Champions Bayern Munich in the contest pitting the Champions League winners against the Europa League victors. 

Held in Prague, the tie ended in a 2-2 draw and ended in penalties. As one might expect from a spot-kick shootout, it was the German outfit who kept their cool and fired their way into a 5-4 lead before Lukaku, who replaced Fernando Torres in extra-time, stepped up for the decisive attempt. 

What’s evident from the video above is how much Lukaku has improved in front of goal. Now a deadly machine of a forward, he looked nervous when staring down Manuel Neuer and duly missed his spot-kick with a rather feeble attempt. 

According to the aforementioned article, Lukaku ‘was so affected by his penalty miss, he felt as though he needed time away from Chelsea’. 

While that is not thought to have come as too much of a surprise to the club, it is claimed that ‘Mourinho intended to promote him up the ranks, not only because of a lack of options up front for Chelsea that season, but because he knew Lukaku could become the striker he is today.’ 

Those plans lay in ruins and, four days later, the player moved to Everton on loan before embarking on a career that would see him link back up with Mourinho at Manchester United before moving to Italy for £75m, scoring 253 times in the period since. 

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Of his decision to leave for Goodison Park, Mourinho even suggested Lukaku should be more open about what happened following that penalty miss. 

“The only thing he didn’t say is why he went to Everton on loan,” said the Portuguese. 

“That’s the only thing he never says.

“Why do you never say why you are not here? It’s something he should say, the reason why he’s not with Chelsea and is in Everton.

“That’s what I’m telling him now: ‘Tell the country why you left’.

“When you enjoy to speak, speak everything. Don’t speak only half of it. Speak everything. It’s a simple question: ‘Why did you leave Chelsea?’ Ask him.”

Almost a decade on, Lukaku could be set to right the wrong of that night in Prague. 

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