Chelsea faces Villarreal in the UEFA Super Cup in Belfast tomorrow, a prize that they have never won under Roman Abramovich.
It will also bring up painful memories for the fans, who have seen their team lose three times in the final, twice in penalty shoot-outs.
Against Bayern Munich, a visibly apprehensive Romelu Lukaku had to score from the penalty spot in order to trigger sudden death. That was the first time a shoot-out was used, back in 2013. However, his effort was mediocre and easily saved by Manuel Neuer, and he was shipped out on loan to Everton four days after being released.
Taking the penalty was Lukaku’s final action in a Chelsea shirt after 15 appearances and no goals for the club. Jose Mourinho, who was incensed with the effort, agreed to the striker’s impulsive desire for a move away from Stamford Bridge.
Lukaku’s desire to go was the catalyst for his exit, though it is safe to assume that Jose Mourinho did not share his enthusiasm for the player, who did not want to contend for a starting position alongside Fernando Torres, Demba Ba, and Samuel Eto’o. Instead of bringing Lukaku back, Mourinho went out and purchased Diego Costa the next summer, and the rest, as they say, is history.
- In the eyes of Chelsea and its owner Roman Abramovich, Lionel Messi has long been the final piece of the puzzle.
A week after Manchester City broke the British transfer record by signing Jack Grealish for £100 million, Chelsea is on the verge of matching that figure with their £97.5 million investment in the 28-year-old Belgian international (pictured).
It has the appearance of being a game-changer. Despite Costa’s success, Chelsea has never been able to completely replace Didier Drogba as their center-forward in the Premier League. Lukaku aspired to be that player and was dubbed “Baby Drogba” because of his admiration for the Ivorian. With his newfound opportunity comes significantly better circumstances than when he first came at Chelsea as an impressionable, wide-eyed adolescent.
It is fair to assume that few young players at the club during those years had any realistic chance of achieving success. Chelsea’s atmosphere did not lend itself to such an endeavor. Lukaku may have also placed too much pressure on himself to do well – and was unable to deal when this did not occur.
- Three things to keep an eye out for as Chelsea looks to win the Super Cup for the second time in three years
The circumstances look to be ideal at the moment. Lukaku has not hurried into this decision because of some insane urge to complete some unfinished business, contrary to the saying “never go back.” After all, he spurned Chelsea in 2017, provoking the wrath of Antonio Conte and the rest of the Chelsea administration when he chose to join Manchester United over them for £75 million and reunite with Jose Mourinho.
In the meantime, his two years in Serie A with Inter Milan, finally under Conte’s tutelage, have seen him evolve into a far better, more complete, and more mature player who continues to produce remarkable stats – 64 goals and 16 assists in 95 games speak for itself. His position as No 9 is one that can adapt to the present day.
“There are many different ways to play that position, but the most distinguishing characteristic is the ability to score goals,” Belgium coach Roberto Martinez adds. It looks that the No 9 shirt at Chelsea will be his once Lukaku comes, with Tammy Abraham anticipated to be sold as a result of the transfer. Lukaku’s jersey has been difficult to fill at the club, but that was also the situation at Inter when he joined them from Manchester United.
The legendary players Eto’o, Hernan Crespo, the Brazilian Ronaldo, Ivan Zamorano, and Jurgen Klinsmann, and Roberto Boninsegna were all among those he was watching, as were Jurgen Klinsmann and Roberto Boninsegna in the past.
Lukaku also arrived in Italy with Juventus in such complete and total dominance that they won their eighth consecutive Serie A championship in his first season there. Inter were champions at the end of the previous season, and Lukaku was the man in the middle of the attack for them.
His understanding of the pressure, expectation, and history will ensure that a return to Chelsea is not a deterrent. When the sum was agreed upon, Drogba sent out a tweet saying, “He’s coming home.” The only thing that Lukaku will have to deal with is his emotions.
But he is adamant about achieving success. The fact that the lure of Chelsea caused him to reconsider his decision after previously stating that he was content to remain at Inter despite Conte’s departure demonstrates how much he believes in the club. Despite the enormous strides made under head coach Thomas Tuchel, it appears to be an ideal fit and one that not only addresses a glaring problem in the Chelsea team but also elevates them to the position of being the most likely challengers to Manchester City’s hopes of retaining the Premier League championship. Chelsea is immediately elevated to a new level as a result of the agreement.
However, while Lukaku was not the first option as a new center-forward for Chelsea this summer – that would have been either Erling Haaland or Harry Kane – the Belgian is now among those who were. They are, along with Robert Lewandowski, the best No 9s in the history of the game in the globe.
It’s easy to see why people are drawn to it. He is exactly the type of accomplished, all-around striker that their squad is in desperate need of. It is not necessary to look at Chelsea’s “XG” (expected goals) from last season to see that they failed to convert a sufficient number of the opportunities they produced.