Romelu Lukaku - A great Chelsea player if only he played
Romelu Lukaku came to Chelsea Football Club in the summer of 2011 in a blaze of publicity. The Belgian striker was signed for a reported sum of approximately £18 million - £20 million, with great acclaim from Belgian and European journalists - the next Didier Drogba, a wonder kid at 17 years of age, (at the time), a powerhouse of strength and ability and, in addition to being a Chelsea fan, the future of Chelsea. Yet why has he only made six senior club appearances since his arrival?
Lukaku - The Talent
Romelu has had great experience in his youth career. In 1999, he joined Rupel Boom in Belgium, followed over the next ten years with a good grounding gained at Lierse and, from 2006 to 2009, at Anderlecht. He also made seventy-three senior club appearances for Anderlecht between 2008 to 2011 and scored an amazing thirty-three goals. In 2009 - 2010, Lukaku was the top scorer in Belgium for Anderlecht, when they won the Belgian Championship, which was an astounding achievement for the young man. In respect of the Belgian National Team, Lukaku has made fifteen appearances for the Belgian senior side since 2010, scoring two goals. As you can see, he is quite a talent.
What went wrong?
Lukaku's first-team appearances for Chelsea were made at a time of injury to Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka. It was anticipated that he would get more first-team game time when Drogba and Salomon Kalou exited in January for the Africa Cup of Nations. However, other front-attacking men were deployed. Torres, for example was given his chance in the team, along with Daniel Sturridge, who came into form around that time. Unlucky, Rom.
Since the return of Drogba and Kalou, Romelu slipped further down the pecking order. Some would say, Chelsea have too many attacking players to choose from - Drogba, Mata, Kalou, Sturridge, Torres and Malouda - and, under Andre Villas-Boas, Lukaku was not utilised. When Andre Villas-Boas was sacked by the club in March 2012 for poor performances, the team's assistant manager, Roberto di Matteo took over as caretaker manager. It was hoped that because Lukaku had been taken aside to train in-depth with di Matteo, he would feature more in the first-team. Unfortunately, he was unlucky again. Chelsea had slipped down the Premier League and it was necessary to play a strong and experienced team to try to secure fourth place in the League - and therefore Champions League action next season.
Lukaku played last week in a reserves game for Chelsea against Manchester United. Every time I have seen Lukaku play for the reserves, it embarrasses me that he is in this team, as he is too good for it. In the match I mentioned, he showed strength, pace and skill. The only negatives were that he took too many touches before shooting at goal and passing the ball and did not impose his presence enough. These negatives are due, I believe, to lack of first-team experience and confidence as a result.
What of Lukaku's Future?
There has been talk of Lukaku playing more in the first-team next season. In my opinion, this is the best course of action for him. As he is a keen Chelsea fan and idolizes Drogba, he should not only be training with Drogba, but playing with him to gain invaluable experience from the master. He can also hone his skills by playing with the likes of Torres and Mata. This would be the best experience and he would be learning the Chelsea style of play.
However, there has also been mention of loaning Lukaku out to another team, so that he gets regular first-team playing time. I believe he requires playing time with the team which signed him. However, if he is to go on loan, it should be to a team which plays a similar style to Chelsea and for no longer than a season.
Chelsea Football Club have to consider with great care, what is in the best interests of Romelu Lukaku and the club. Lukaku is a great talent and has plenty of potential. I hope Chelsea have the insight to play him more next season in the first-team.
He is our talent - present and future.
Good luck, Rom.