After an impressive 15-goal season that saw Romelu Lukaku nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year, many had assumed Jose Mourinho would welcome the big Belgian back into his goal shy squad without any qualms.
They were wrong. By the end of July Lukaku had been shipped out to Everton for a £6 million profit on the £18 million Chelsea had paid for him. Whilst Jose may have seen 27-goal hitman Diego Costa as a better alternative to lead his title charge, the Portuguese manager may have made a big mistake letting Lukaku go.
There's no arguing that the one part of Chelsea's squad was below average for such a big team last season was the attack. Despite having the creative trio of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian, the 3 forwards Mourinho had at his disposal couldn't hit the back of the net on a consistent basis. A new forward was always set to come in and the majority of the deadwood strikers sold.
But whilst Chelsea scoured for a new striker and ended up paying £32 million for Costa, they already had the perfect man for the job coming in for free, the return of Romelu Lukaku fresh from a brilliant loan season with Everton.
When Chelsea signed Lukaku, they knew he was special, he was top scorer in the Belgian top division at 16 with Anderlecht, but he was never given a chance to flourish. He did flourish in his two Premier League loan spells the following seasons however.
Lukaku is a huge, strong, powerful forward, traits that are very important to be a good striker in English football. He often wins his aerial duels, with a 37.9% success rate compared to Diego Costa's rate which sits at 21%, and Lukaku can hold onto the ball and set up his teammates as well, he had 6 league assists last term (Costa got 3). This is all key in the counter-attacking play Jose Mourinho enforces at Chelsea, the forward has to be able to hold up the ball, and pass it to team mates quickly, all of which Lukaku does excellently.
Not just is the Belgian physically brilliant, he is quick and has a highly impressive work rate (which Mourinho is known to demand from his team). Whether the ball is played to feet or played behind the defense to be ran onto, Lukaku is perfectly comfortable in both situations, and has scored goals from both those situations last season.
You may think that this strong, quick play may mean he can be rash in front of goal, but the reality is far from it. Lukaku is quite composed infront of goal, favouring the intelligent finesse shots into the corners rather than smashing the ball in hope it flies into the goal, if nothing else this shows maturity beyond the young man's years. His shot accuracy last season at 63% tops both Costa (57%) and £50 million flop Fernando Torres (49%).
So a strong, powerful, quick and clinical forward leading the line at Stamford Bridge, remind you of anyone? The similarities between Drogba and Lukaku are in abundance.
So why doesn't Jose fancy giving Lukaku a chance at Chelsea? In the fluid system Chelsea play on the attack, Romelu would fit in perfectly, moving quick and finishing decisively. When defending, he can hold up the ball and lead or even set up a counter attack. Sure, Costa thrived last season in a counter attacking system at Atletico Madrid, but at 21 was Lukaku a talent worth taking a risk on? He may have weak areas (such as his control), but he has plently of time to improve, and you can bet he will - big time.
Besides, in some big matches in both the Champions League and the World Cup Costa failed to deliver, who's to say that wont happen in the Premier League? (Although I'm sure it won't). If Costa proves to be the next big name hitman to collapse at the Bridge, they can only look to returning hero Drogba, who is 36 and won't be able to play a full season week in, week out, or the abysmal shaped Spaniard Torres.
If Mourinho has a reason for letting such a talent like Lukaku go so easily, then it isn't obvious right now to the footballing world. But, Chelsea's loss is Everton's gain and they have bagged a fantastic young forward for a decent price who is sure to light up the blue half of Liverpool for another few seasons.
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