Lukaku will be a world beater
There are a pair of very young shoulders at West Bromwich Albion, atop which sits a head that possesses the wisdom and maturity of a player already reaching the end of his career. To find such drive and maturity in a young striker is a rare quality indeed, but Romelu Lukaku is a rare player.
The Belgium international had scored 31 league goals before his 19th birthday during his time at Anderlecht, and had already garnered the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
When the time came to leave his native land, Lukaku chose to move to London and join Chelsea, a place where he hoped he could learn from the man to whom the majority of pundits were already comparing him: Didier Drogba.
“In the beginning it was nice to hear [the comparsions] but every player wants to make his own name," Lukaku said. "I want to make my own name.”
He was barely a name in his first season at Stamford Bridge, with the hotly touted youngster featuring in just eight Premier League fixtures for his new club and making only one start, against Fulham, in early September. Chelsea fans began to doubt weather their new prodigy could handle the pressure of the Premier League and the expectation that now surrounds the club.
Lukaku responded by slamming Andre Villas-Boas in the national press, saying that the Portuguese manager had been off with him from the moment he stepped into the dressing room at Stamford Bridge, and that he learned nothing from his time in training, playing predominantly as an extra man out on the wings.
Since then, though, Roberto Di Matteo has changed the shape of the striker’s future, and his season-long loan to his manager's former club looks like it will bring the type of change in the player that both Daniel Sturridge and Danny Welbeck found when they had spells at Bolton and Sunderland, respectively.
“I wanted to see another side of football,” Lukaku said. “I thought West Brom would be the perfect place for me to develop myself.”
Encouraged by Di Matteo to join Albion, Lukaku has scored two goals in his first four appearances this season and has galvanized the club's attack whenever he’s come off the bench. It may be too early to tell, but he already looks head and shoulders above the rest of the Albion strike force in terms of touch, vision, and finishing.
“He’s a handful for anyone,” Shane Long said of Lukaku. “He’s still only 19. It’s hard to think because he’s strong, he’s quick, he’s good in the air and he can finish. He’s near enough the complete striker.”
He’s also complete off the pitch too, speaking six languages - Belgium, Dutch, French, Congoleese, Portugese, Spanish and English, although he also understands a little German too – and possessing a degree from school.
“I think education is very important,” is the towering strikers response to questions about the interlectual side of his brain as opposed to his footballing one. “It was important for me to have my degrees at school so I could also go to England. That was the one thing my parents wanted before I came to England, that I could have my degree and I got that degree. Education is very important in Belgium and if you didn't do well at school in the week, you couldn't play football at the weekend.”
Lukaku, it seems, is a new breed of footballer. Talented, driven, intelligent and wise, the forward has the potential to be great, but he also understands just how important the next two or three years are to his development and growth as a football player.
“For me, the next two years, it is very important for me to play. I'm just 19 and even though I'll be 20 next year, people will still look at me like a baby. The next year I'll be 21, I'll still be a baby in some people's eyes. Then there is the World Cup and stuff like that. I want to play as much as I can in the next two years so at 21 I can be where I want to be.
"Last year I had good preparation at Chelsea, now I can show myself at West Brom. My dream is always to play for Chelsea, so my main ambition will be Chelsea, but now it's West Brom and West Brom is on my mind. I hope Chelsea have a good season but I hope we have a good season as well. The club made a big effort for me to come here and hopefully I can do the business for the team.”
Everything is being taken in stride by a very composed individual at the Hawthorns, and as a part of one of the greatest crop of Belgian internationals ever produced – a group that includes Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard and Jan Vertonghen – the sky could be the only limit on a very promising career indeed.
West Brom fans will be very sad indeed to see him leave at the end of the year, while Chelsea fans could have a new option upfront instead of Fernando Torres.