A new chapter indeed this is for Romelu Lukaku. Originally purchased as Didier Drogba's long-term replacement at Stamford Bridge, the 21-year-old has seen the tables turned by the return to west London of the Ivorian veteran. Shipped off to Everton this week on a permanent deal, Lukaku has left in search of regular first-team football and even though José Mourinho had reasonable justifications for letting the youngster go, the decision still remains somewhat perplexing.
"Romelu was always clear that in his mentality and his approach he was not highly motivated to come to a competitive situation", Mourinho was quoted as saying in the Daily Mirror, citing the Belgian striker's previous roles as first pick on loan at both West Brom and Everton. "He wanted to play for Chelsea but clearly only as the first choice striker - and at a club of our dimension it's very difficult to promise a player that status."
Fair enough, then, José! Get rid! Rid the club of this horribly selfish player, hell-bent on seeing his impressive performances rewarded with a chance at first team football!
Chelsea's inadequacies up front last season need no introduction. Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto'o scored just 19 goals in 68 Premier League appearances between them; Lukaku alone scored 15 in 31 games. It isn't surprising that Ba and Eto'o have both since left the club, nor was it a shock to see Torres miss a painfully simple chance in front of a gaping open goal in a pre-season friendly against lowly Olimpija Ljubljana last week.
Diego Costa is thus necessary signing for the Blues and a fantastic one at that, but now without Lukaku, they are left with only him, an ageing and potentially increasingly ineffective Drogba and an ailing Torres; a trio barely sufficient to mount a serious title charge, even if they all avoid many injuries. Lukaku's presence would significantly improve the options available to Mourinho.
Both Costa and Lukaku have grown used to being the first name on the team sheet, but what is wrong with a little healthy competition for them both? It is hardly as if Mourinho has never had to deal with troublesome characters before or made big decisions concerning big players? Eden Hazard ruffled the Portuguese manager's feathers last season for failing to put in the defensive work that had been asked of him, while he was the man who originally dropped Real Madrid legend Iker Casillas. Convincing an unruly 21-year-old Lukaku to fight for his place hardly seems beyond his powers, and if the decision to sell him was merely to avoid such confrontation then it is a selfish act by Mourinho that could be to the detriment of his club.
There is little believing Mourinho's other assertion that Financial Fair Play demands were a factor in the decision to let Lukaku leave. Granted, £28 million is a hefty sum, and not one to be baulked at, but a replacement will be needed and there is talk that they are weighing up a £40 million move for Edinson Cavani. On top of the increased transfer fee, Cavani will also command higher wages, so FFP cannot really play a part in Chelsea's thoughts if the Cavani rumours are to be believed (and they do indeed make sense). Furthermore, little secret has been made of the Uruguayan being unhappy to play second fiddle to Zlatan Ibrahimovic at PSG, so Mourinho may be faced with a similar problem with Cavani and Costa as he would with Lukaku.
Then there is the point that Lukaku does indeed deserve a chance to prove his worth in the first team at Chelsea. Costa should be first choice, but an ineffective showing at the World Cup for Spain, with a WhoScored rating of just 6.17, highlighted that the striker does indeed have his limits, and also that fatigue, built up from a testing season, had got the better of him.
Only Luis Suarez (54) and Robin van Persie (38) have scored more Premier League goals in the last two seasons than Lukaku (32). Costa ranked third in terms of goals scored (27) to Cristiano Ronaldo (31) and Lionel Messi (28) last season alone, but doesn't that hint that Lukaku, still so young, is still behind Costa but is well on his way to the top, and moreover given their similar physiques, that Costa is the best man from whom Lukaku can learn?
By the age of 21, Lukaku has scored as many league goals as Sergio Agüero had (65), 21 more than Wayne Rooney (44), 23 more than Messi (42) and a full 44 more than Costa (21). What else does he have to do to prove his pedigree to Mourinho?
Question marks have been raised regarding Lukaku's technical ability and in that sense he certainly is no like-for-like Drogba replacement. He gave away possession due to a poor touch an average of 1.6 times per game last season, meaning he did so with 4.2% of his touches. That in itself seems like quite a lot of the time; more than 1 in every 25 of his touches would go straight to the opposition. Drogba, though, did so with 14.5% of his touches in the Champions League last season, while Costa lost the ball with 6.5% of his in La Liga last term. The teams played a similar proportion of their passes long (Everton 12.2%, Atlético 11.8%) so it is not as if Costa's job was more difficult in this regard, and with fewer still passes played long at Chelsea (11.2%), Lukaku's so-called poor first touch certainly wouldn't be a problem.
There are obviously aspects of his game that Lukaku needs to work on, but the with the quality of players around him and facilities at Chelsea, it seems the perfect place for him to do just that. If it weren't for Mourinho's steadfastly stubborn approach to Lukaku's demands, the Belgian might well have been able to do just that.
Do you think Mourinho was right to sell Romelu Lukaku to Everton? Let us know in the comments below.
All statistics courtesy of WhoScored.com where you can find yet more stats and player ratings.Suggest a correction