At the age of 21 in the history of the Premier League there are 2 forwards who achieved a lot of goals - Wayne Rooney of Everton and Michael Owen of Liverpool. Until recently Owen held the record for the most goals scored by the 21st birthday in the Premier League by player.
That record was shattered by a player recently. His name is Romelu Lukaku.
Going through the articles of last few days I was surprised at the number of ill informed comments and childish arguments regarding the said player. There are some things I would like to set the record on.
Firstly as this was covered in the initial paragraphs Lukaku is the best young striker not just now but in the history of the Premier League. He knows where the back of the net is and that`s` something our 3 strikers regularly forgot . Lukaku outshone them. The popular argument to this point is that Lukaku only played at WBA and Everton. Playing for Chelsea is something else. Wayne Rooney played at Everton too but that didn`t stop Sir Alex from paying what was at that time a fortune for a young striker.
Secondly I read comments that we should sell him for £20 million. This is a bit ridiculous as we bought him for £17 million when he was completely unproven in the league. After he shatters Owen's records his value has just gone up by £3 million? That`s just naive. It`s not like he is on the last year of his contract. Add to this another point which a lot of people miss - why were Shaw, Henderson, Lallana, or even Carroll bought for inflated prices? No it`s not due to the romanticism of buying 'English players' but the practicality of homegrown rules of the FA and UEFA.
Lukaku counts as a homegrown player for Chelsea in the Premier League and association trained in the Champions League. What this basically means is that Lukaku is just as 'English' according to the rules as many of the overpriced stars who are bought for ransoms
What this means is if we sell Lukaku, a record breaking 21 year old striker with a fantastic resale value who can count as a potentially homegrown player to a direct rival then it has to be for an absolute killing.
In case we do keep him he frees up valuable squad space for the 17 international slots. After loosing a raft of English/homegrown players like Cole and Lampard and with other English/homegrown players like Bertrand potentially leaving added to the fact that this time next year we could loose Terry too, one can simply not understate the value of homegrown players like Cesc Fabregas and Lukaku necessary to ensure we have a solid homegrown roster without significant compromise on quality. We cannot upgrade 6 academy boys to complete a 25 man squad without compromising on meaningful depth necessary to challenge on all fronts and at the same time hamper the development of those academy boys when they could be playing week in week out on loan.
If you think about it barring Rooney and Strurridge how many homegrown strikers are there in the league of a high level. I can hardly think of any, and if you, the reader can I`m sure it` ll be looking for needles in a haystack.
Now on the issue of attitude - This is probably the most childish reason to sell him. We are a football club not a soap opera. It`s in the nature of players to make stupid comments. Some player`s, especially young ones are even more likely. But surely Lukaku's comments, although immature, can not be as immature and childish as the comments about him that merlin is fed up off. According to some of the members Jose Mourinho is an egomaniac. But to be honest this egomaniac coudn`t give a rat's backside about comments made by players about him or the club before he signed them or while they are out on loan. Fabregas thought Mourinho should shut up a few months back and now he can`t shut up about how happy he is to play for a great coach. Eto'o would have rather sold peanuts than play for a club like Chelsea, apparently he coudn`t find any peanuts. I could go on about other players as well like Deco, Carvalho etc but here is a case of two players who spoke pretty badly about the manager or the club but it didn`t really matter because football is not about emotional sop stories but about the players ability to deliver. Jose doesn`t care if his player is a prick if he performs on the field (Costa),
What is also interesting is that many fans and large sections of the media are completely unaware that Jose actually rates Lukaku very highly. I`m not even talking about the times when Jose made dreary trips to Goodison to follow Lukaku's progress. Mourinho had tried to sign Lukaku at the age of 17 to be his third choice striker behind Higuain and Benzema only for Lukaku's father to intervene and say Lukaku had to finish his schooling before he left the Belgian league. Adebayor was then signed on loan instead. Mourinho did go back for Lukaku a year later but the players love for Chelsea meant we snapped him up.
About being scared of competition - this is another sweeping generalizing statement. Circumstances and history lead to situations. In his first season with us after signing for a mammoth fee of £17 million as a teenager Lukaku had to play in the reserves thanks to AVB. An entire year in a reserve team after beasting the Belgian League must have been a big backward step for any top prospect.
The following year Lukaku benefitted from the leaving the club of his dreams and the reserve team for a stint at WBA and the benefit was for all to see. Now at the start of last season one can imagine what went on in Romelu's mind. Demba Ba's was almost certainly going on loan meaning Lukaku was originally under the impression that he would be fighting with Torres and a new striker for the shirt. But that`s` when Ba's loan was rightly vetoed by Mourinho as he didn`t want to do Arsenal any favours and the world class Samuel Eto'o joined.
Now at this given point Eto'o was still a big, big star. Ba was actually a much bigger name than he is now as only 6 months back he was tearing it apart with Newcastle. And then Torres, the board favourite was there. This immediately meant Lukaku was a fourth choice and possibly going to be doing some more reserve game thingy. At this point neither Lukaku nor most of us know that all the other three strikers would bomb that season and he would have got a chance to play games for us. It was a highly unlikely scenario.
Matters only got complicated when the league started and Christian Benteke scored against both Arsenal and Chelsea in the first two weeks carrying off from where he left. Now this was a World Cup year and no one knew Benteke would miss the World Cup through injury and also have a patchy season. Any punter would have bet on Benteke the star leading Belgium over fourth choice Chelsea striker Lukaku. In the next week Wilmots, the coach of Belgium, further dropped a bomb by making it clear players who weren`t playing regular club football wouldn`t go to Brazil. Under the circumstances Romelu had no choice but to request a loan.
About his media friendly stupid quotes - Breaking news. Ambitious 21 year olds do immature things. Some throw darts at youth players, some sleep around with anyone and everyone and some just talk and talk when they see a mike. Romelu's habit is not as damaging as it`s perceived to be. Yes its a bit embarrassing at times but the club cant stop it when players are out on loan (re - Courtois)
One thing I can guarantee is whether is Lukaku or Courtois they will have no choice but to shut up once in the squad as indiscipline equals bench time in Mourinho's books. So that's that.
On perceived lack of ability - There is a common misconception that Lukaku is an all brawn no brain striker. The things that some fans expect from a 21year old centre forward is just unreal. Take for example first touch. Every time I hear about how awesome Drogba's first touch and hold up play was for us I wince. For starters Drogba was signed at 25, not 21. Secondly it took another year or two to become flawless in those qualities.
His work-rate may be a bit short sometimes but I have always felt with that kind of a frame Lukaku tends to conserve energy to support those sudden lung busting runs. His stamina and work-rate will improve every year and when he reaches his physical peak of 27-28 yrs he will be just as good as anyone else. In fact within a year or two you will see marked physical capacity increase.
Any flaw Lukaku has like first touch, link up play or movement are things that come with experience not inborn talent for centre forwards. Costa, Drogba etc picked up this stuff by the time they reached the peak. And no disrespect to them, at the same age of 21 none of Drogba, Costa, Cavani, Falcao were a scratch on Romelu.
His strengths are unique - Firstly he is a beast, when he came on as a sub against the USA, Rio Ferdinand couldn`t help but chuckle that the USA defenders were going to get beasted. While Rio Ferdinand isn`t a football expert, believe me he would know what getting beasted meant having been beasted himself by Romelu. The best part is Lukaku not only has the raw strength that is un-paralled he knows how to use it to his advantage.
His pace is very, very good and surprising for someone his size and people don`t see to notice how good his dribbling skills are for his size. His finishing from inside the box is very reliable and lets face it we don`t really need strikers roaming everywhere and scoring wonder-goals, we need strikers who can finish simple chances inside the box and just put the ball in the back of the neck using their backsides if they have to, something our strikers just couldn`t do last year.
On HIS ROLE - How can we use this guy? Imagine opposition defenders getting battered and bruised by Diego Costa for 60-65 mins only to see Romelu Lukaku come on. That is called getting beasted twice. Chasing a game and want to play two forwards? Play Costa and Lukaku up front. All four defenders get 'double beasted'. Add to the fact that Costa is right footed and Lukaku left footed meaning they can play LS and RS in such situations and occupy the entire backline and provide two targets and create space for every Chelsea player to run into.
He can also be used to kill off games on the counter. Effectively he will average more than 40% game time whether as a starter or a sub over 60 matches which is quite a lot.
His quotes hinting he is on the look out for a new club - This has 'clever agent/advisers' written all over it. Many a time players actually read our prepared scripts by their agents during international tournaments. Its no surprise Madrid are after James Rodriguez after him stating how he preferred them.
Why does this happen? Either the agent is trying to get his player to move or as I suspect in this case get a pay rise. Lukaku has 2 yrs on his deal left and whether he stays or gets loaned out he will be signing a new contract if he is a part of our future. Such scripted speeches about transfers gives the agent increased bargaining power on the negotiation table. I would be pissed if Lukaku named clubs and said how it would be a dream to play for them . But giving non-committal quotes like 'I'll see after the World Cup. Or I`m focusing on my NT' are pretty mundane agent scripted stuff that`s basically run of the mill and nothing to get worked up about.
What we need to do - Get him to sign a new contract for both economic and footballing reasons.
Economic reasons - Strikers are worth their weight in gold. Looking at Lukaku's career graph when he hits his peak his transfer value after 4-5 yrs would be obscene owing to him being a striker who can become the Falcao/Cavani type deal of tomorrow plus the fact that inflation is high in the football market. You dont want to sell him for £25 million today and see him sold after 4-5 yrs by the club that buys him for a £100 million
Footballing reasons - the whole article covers this aspect. Now it`s only a decision whether Jose wants him in the squad immediately (how much worse can he do than Torres or Ba) or loan him one last time. But we have to ensure he signs a new deal to avoid a Sturridge like situation
Loaning him to Diego Simeone would be an attractive proposition even though Atletico board are pricks because the basic principles and tactics used and certain value systems like - fighting for your teammates, work ethics etc are very similar to Jose's way of doing stuff (this is why we are buying so many Atleti players- they just slot in perfectly to Mourinho's plans).
Another option would be to keep him with Costa and sign someone like Aubameyang to offer another tactical option provided we get rid of Torres and Ba.
I am sorry that the article was this long but it had to be, because the number of ill-informed and illogical comments about the player were just too damn high the last few days!