When Chelsea signed Romelu Lukaku in 2011 it was the end of a relatively inevitable transfer pursuit. The player wanted the move and the club had been chasing the player for some time. Add in the fact that the player’s idol, one Didier Drogba, was still strutting his stuff at the club and the move really came as no surprise. For Chelsea it was a major coup, signing one of the most talented teenagers in the game and the player that many had labelled as the next Drogba.
Almost two years on and Lukaku is in real danger of becoming the latest in a long line of expensive Chelsea flops and it is up to both him as a player and the club to ensure everything is done to maximise his development. In his first season at Stamford Bridge he was left to rot in the reserves for the majority of the year and he was used infrequently in the first team as a substitute. He made only one Premier League start and it was frankly a shocking waste of such potential.
Whether that was because he wasn’t a signing Andre Villas-Boas in particular wanted and more one that the club wanted is unclear but for a player with such promise he was clearly underused. In fact his situation is not too dissimilar to fellow Chelsea youngster Josh McEachran. Apparently told he would be part of the first team plans McEachran was hardly used before being sent out on a ridiculous loan to Swansea. Of course the styles of play of the club and player match up extremely well but Swansea had one of the most settled and organised midfields in the Premier League.
It was extremely unfair to expect the youngster to break in at the Liberty. Lukaku however couldn't be sent out on loan due to FIFA stipulations and at the end of the season he famously disassociated himself from the club’s Champions League triumph because he had played no part in the successful campaign.
This season is a different story. Lukaku made it clear he wanted to go out on loan and here we have seen a difference. Last season people were questioning whether he was worth the money. Those critics have vanished after some wonderful performances in the Premier League for West Bromwich Albion. Lukaku now has 13 goals in the league this season and while it may not sound like much, that is the same amount of goals Fernando Torres has managed over the past two seasons.
Yet for some reason Chelsea still persist with their £50m man, baffling isn’t it? Lukaku rejected any chances of returning to Chelsea in January and why wouldn’t he? Play regular football in a successful and settled side or sit on the bench at one of the most unstable clubs in Europe? It’s not a tricky decision to make. Lukaku has made no secret of his desire to become a legend at Chelsea but in order for that to happen he has to be given the chance, which isn’t always a guarantee.
Over the years a lot of big names have failed at Chelsea and it hasn’t always been their fault. For reasons unknown Andriy Shevchenko was unable to replicate his incredible form at AC Milan for the Blues. After scoring 175 in 296 for Milan he couldn’t even register ten Premier League goals in 48 appearances. Shaun Wright-Phillips was one of the hottest prospects in England when he signed from Manchester City but despite playing regularly, Wright-Phillips couldn’t make it at Chelsea. Two goals on his second debut at City suggest that it was the club rather than the player that was the problem. And then there was Scott Parker, Young Player of the Year the season he joined Chelsea but never played regularly. Seen as an expensive flop at Chelsea, Parker has since gone on to become one of the finest holding midfielders in the division and a mainstay in the England side.
Lukaku is considerably younger than these players were when they joined Chelsea admittedly but there is still a lesson to be learnt. Chelsea failed to utilise what they had and instead were left spending more money trying to fill the void. Of course Falcao would be a wonderful signing for the club, the Colombian forward would be for any side but there is now talk that he isn’t as keen on joining. If he chooses to move elsewhere and Edinson Cavani cannot be persuaded to move Chelsea will have “to make do” with Lukaku.
In my opinion that is the best thing for them. The boy oozes class on the field and his development could well be pivotal to any future success Chelsea have. One final thought, if Lukaku has been this good with West Brom’s midfield behind him imagine what he would be like if he had Oscar, Hazard and Juan Mata playing in and around him?