Romelu Lukaku will be returning to Chelsea in the coming season. It’s a narrative that should have happened years ago, but the Blues are signing one of the best strikers in the world regardless of the circumstances.
Despite being a former Chelsea player, Lukaku still has unfinished business with the club. But who is he, and how did he leave the Blues at the age of 21, almost return at the age of 24, and finally return at the age of 28?
There are four anecdotes that really capture the essence of Romelu Lukaku and his relationship with Chelsea. First, he played for Anderlecht as a youth player, and this was his first goal. “The day I’m playing here in this stadium, that will be the only time you will see me cry,” Lukaku was heard saying on a tour of Stamford Bridge. I’m confident that I’ll be successful.” Romelu Lukaku has always known that he possessed the necessary qualities to flourish at a club such as Chelsea.
After making his name at Anderlecht, Lukaku was signed by Chelsea in 2011 to play under new manager Andre Villas-Boas. It is well known that the Portuguese manager was notorious for his ability to freeze out older players, but it is less well known that he was also not particularly good with young players. When Villa-Boas first took over as manager, Lukaku used to express his dissatisfaction with the fact that the old guard would usually go first in a shooting game. It’s something that appears to be completely innocuous, and it most likely was, but it demonstrates that Lukaku was unafraid to put his faith in his own abilities even at a young age.
Chelsea would go on to win the Champions League the next season, but Lukaku was not interested in taking part. He didn’t consider it to be his accomplishment, and he wouldn’t be mistaken in believing that. Many players are unconcerned about the role they play when their team is victorious in the Champions League, but Lukaku wouldn’t even look at the trophy if it was in his possession. If his fingerprints were going to be on it, he would be able to prove that he was the one who placed them there.
Following that, Lukaku would spend the next two seasons on loan with both West Brom and Everton. Lukaku dominated the Premier League in both seasons, only for Jose Mourinho to encourage the club to sign Diego Costa rather than putting his faith in the Belgian. Always confident in himself, the Belgian lodged his transfer request to join Everton on a permanent basis in the summer of 2015. There, he would continue to score for the sake of amusement until the summer of 2017 came.
This gets us to the fourth and last anecdote that encapsulates Lukaku’s persona and personality. Chelsea and Manchester United were involved in a bidding war for the signings of Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata that summer. It was very evident that each team would receive one, but it was still up in the air as to who would go where. When Manchester United signed Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea knew what they had to do.
It may appear unusual that Lukaku would choose to join Manchester United, given his apparent affection for the club. In the end, it came down to whether the club was more interested in him. According to Lukaku, that was Manchester United from the top to the bottom of the organization.
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His stint at United was successful, ironically only for as long as Jose Mourinho remained in charge. In the aftermath of Jose Mourinho’s firing, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer had little patience for the Belgian striker. Meanwhile, Antonio Conte has shown his respect for Romelu Lukaku once more. The two would eventually come together at Inter Milan.
This brings the story more or less up to date, to a point. Lukaku saw a significant improvement under Conte, but the Italian’s unexpected exit from the team placed Lukaku in a difficult situation. Lukaku had expressed an interest in remaining, but as soon as Chelsea became serious about a transfer, his attitude shifted.
That is the essence of Lukaku’s game. He’s a player that has a strong sense of self-belief in his own abilities. Beyond that, he is a player who desires to be desired, and he will be extremely loyal to anyone who reciprocates his feelings. Thomas Tuchel is said to have contacted Romelu Lukaku before the transfer, just when it appeared to be a done thing. The Belgian is returning to the club with a point to prove, and he will do everything in his power to see that it happens.