Romelu Lukaku – The Real Deal?

As I type this, reports are making the rounds that Chelsea are set to up their offer for Belgian prodigy Romelu Lukaku, the 18-year-old striking sensation from Anderlecht. The same Lukaku that, as a 16-year-old, exploded onto the national, and later international, stage taking the Jupiler Pro League by force, literally. Possessing an intimidating 6 foot, 3 inch frame, the Belgian international has been dubbed the ‘New Didier Drogba’ and displays all the attributes of the Ivory Coast captain which has, undoubtedly, seen constant links made between the two.

But, will Lukaku be the real deal or another over-priced, over-hyped youngster? The reported £20m that Chelsea are set to be spending on an 18-year-old that has little, top flight European experience and only nine international caps to his name. Combine that with the fact that the player has only ever plied his trade in Belgium’s top division, a league that is dwarfed in comparison to the Premier League. Then again, compared to the £35m signing of Andy Carroll by Liverpool, £20m seems like a steal for the player.

However, you can’t hold that against the player. His father, and agent, Roger Lukaku has helped his son progress through the tough surroundings of professional football, aiding in keeping Romelu’s feet firmly on the ground. Having stayed in Belgium to complete school when a move to one of Europe’s elite was on the cards is a testament to his father’s ability to keep the player rooted while the rest of the world expects him to move.

Roger’s hard work appears to be paying off. Performing admirably for Anderlecht, Lukaku has been courted by Real Madrid, whose manager Jose Mourinho has done nothing but praise the father/son combo in hope that the 18-year-old will be convinced to move to Spain rather than England where Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City are vying for his signature.

 Yet, it is the West London side who find themselves in pole position in the race for his signature. And can you blame Andre Villas-Boas and co. for courting the Belgian international so closely? Drogba, as good as he is, will not last forever and at 33-years-old is closing in on the twilight years of his career. The management hierarchy will, no doubt, be keen on replacing the Ivorian and a like-for-like move is the best option.

 The Blues are also in desperate need of a major youth re-vamp. The aforementioned Drogba is the wrong side of thirty as are key stars Frank Lampard, John Terry, Nicholas Anelka and Ashley Cole. The signings of David Luiz, Oriol Romeu and Fernando Torres mean the club know that this, inevitable, problem needs to be addressed and it appears youth is the key for Villas-Boas as he looks to assemble a squad capable of re-claiming the Premier league title from Manchester United.

 But will Lukaku prove to be the player he is predicted to be? Too many players have come and gone with the ‘Potential World Beater’ label attached when bought by clubs. Pundits have labelled Lukaku a diamond in the rough, wasn’t Ryan Babel bought by Liverpool with the same tag? And who remembers the likes of Kerlon, Anthony Le Tallec and Freddy Adu? All of whom were expected to take the world by force but amounted to little more than bit-part players when given the chance to perform on the world stage.

 It is an all too common theme with some youth prospects that they simply cannot cut it at the highest level. However, with the right training, Lukaku, I believe, will live up to the hype. Yet, I cannot see a move to Chelsea being a step in the right direction. Yes, the chance to play with some of the game’s best players will do him the world of good, especially if he trains with Drogba on a regular basis. But will he be given the chance to showcase his ability on a weekly basis?

With Drogba, Torres, Anelka and Daniel Sturridge already with the club, one, if not two, of those will be shipped with it most likely being the latter two. Personally, a move to club where he will get playing time, ala Connor Wickham and his Sunderland move, could be a better prospect for Lukaku unless Chelsea plan on sending him on loan to a Premiership club they feel to be less of a threat, much like they did with Sturridge and his spell with Bolton Wanderers. 

Time will tell whether or not Lukaku will be the real deal. The attributes, both physically and mentally, are evident for his success and this summer could very well be an important one for the Belgian if he is to become a success in the game.

Ben McAleer

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