There is a growing feeling among Chelsea fans that Romelu Lukaku may have developed an inflated idea of his own importance. Whether it’s because he’s now a World Cup player, or because he’s reportedly wanted by a handful of Champions League teams, is unclear. But what IS quite clear is that he now thinks the decision about his future is his to make.
The Belgian striker has told journalists that he will decide which club he will play for next season, just as soon as he’s finished his post-World Cup holiday. One thing he is adamant about is that he won’t go anywhere on loan – it’s a permanent move or nothing. “I am 21 and I have been loaned out for the last two seasons,” he complained, “What I don’t want is to be loaned out again.”
Lukaku is also very discerning about which clubs he’ll agree to be sold to, saying that he wants to play for a club in the Champions League. No more messing about with WBA or Everton – he’s risen above their level and is ready to play for Juventus or Atletico Madrid. Sorry, Toffees fans, you won’t be seeing Romelu at Goodison Park any time soon if he has his way.
It may come as a shock to Lukaku, but the people who will be making the decision about his playing future are his employers – you know, Chelsea Football Club, the ones who actually pay his very generous wages. And if they say that he is going to be sent out on loan again, that’s exactly what he’s going to be doing.
Alternatively, if they decide he should stay at Stamford Bridge, he’ll be staying – at least until the end of his contract. And if they decide he should be sold, then as long as a club is found that is willing to pay the quite substantial sum required by Chelsea, then he will be moving on.
The truth is that Lukaku is nowhere near as good as he thinks he is. His initial performances at the World Cup, where he struggled against tight, compact defences, highlighted his limitations – his first touch is poor, his positioning is haphazard, and his ability to beat intelligent, skilful defenders is dubious.
Having said that, he does possess pace, power and the ability to finish and his performances on loan should have won him the right to prove that he can cut it as a useful member of the first-team squad either at Chelsea or another top-level club.
And – to be fair to Lukaku – it’s not just the player who isn’t keen on another loan spell. The Blues are also unconvinced it would be of any value to either party. However, Chelsea are unlikely to let Lukaku leave for much below the hefty £30 million price tag they have reportedly placed on him – and that’s a valuation that may frighten off all but the more determined bidders.
In reality, Lukaku’s future may well be decided by factors outside the control of both player and club. For example, any chance of him going to Atletico Madrid may depend on whether Diego Simeone really doesn’t fancy having him in his side, as has been reported. Or it may depend on whether Juventus are willing to take him as part-exchange in any deal for midfielder Paul Pogba.
But whatever fate awaits the striker, he would be best advised to keep his public comments uncontroversial. The practice of making statements about how you’ll only play at certain clubs in certain circumstances tends to come back and bite you when you least want it to.