Romelu Lukaku, the towering 1.90-meter center-forward, known for his powerful left foot and unstoppable headers, was not going through a good phase in his career, especially after not finding a place in Chelsea’s weakened squad in the current season. However, at the request of the ‘chosen one,’ Mourinho, Roma spared no effort and brought the top scorer in a €5 million loan deal for a season. So far, the value is justified, as the tank-like striker is having a great start to the season.
From Records in the Youth to Success in Anderlecht’s First Team
Since his youth football days, Lukaku emerged as one of Belgium’s greatest football talents, always known for his imposing physical presence and the way he used it to his advantage.
His early years in the Anderlecht youth system, Belgium’s premier club, were nothing short of spectacular. Thanks to his size, the ‘tank’ showed no mercy to his opponents, evident from the 131 goals he scored in just 93 matches between 2006 and 2009.
Given his performances in the youth ranks, Anderlecht’s first team wasted no time and signed the young lad to his first professional contract at the end of the 2008/2009 season.
In the 2009/2010 season, he became a regular in the starting lineup and, with his 15 goals in the Belgian League, helped Anderlecht clinch their 30th title, becoming the league’s top scorer at just 17 years of age.
The following season, he continued to find the back of the net, tallying 20 goals across all competitions. However, these efforts were not enough to defend the Belgian League title.
With consistently strong performances and the scoring instinct that the center-forward possessed, he drew the interest of several top European clubs. It was Chelsea that secured the Belgian gem for around 20 million euros.
After arriving at Chelsea, Lukaku was used very sparingly, primarily because, at the time, the Blues had Torres and Drogba. Despite winning the Champions League that season, Lukaku did not feel like part of the triumph or the squad.
As a result, there was no other option but to loan out the top scorer. On August 10, 2012, Lukaku was announced on loan by the modest West Bromwich, who was playing in the Premier League at the time.
Lukaku took a bit of time to adapt to the Premier League, but once he found his groove, he began scoring goals left and right. In the 2012-2013 season with West Bromwich, he scored 17 goals in the Premier League, trailing only behind names like Van Persie, Suárez, Bale, his compatriot Benteke, and Michu.
No matter how much West Bromwich wanted him, Chelsea decided not to renew the loan, so the Belgian striker returned to the Blues and completed the preseason with the London club. It seemed that this time Lukaku would indeed establish himself at Chelsea, but that was not the case.
After appearing in just two Premier League matches for the Blues in the 2013-2014 season, Lukaku was informed that he was no longer in the team’s plans. Thus, another loan, this time to Everton, a club larger than West Bromwich but not big enough for the potential of the young Belgian tank.
Still, Lukaku didn’t let the ball drop and continued working. His work at Everton was magnificent; in his first season, he scored 15 goals in the Premier League, helping the Liverpool team finish 5th in the English competition, a historic achievement that had never happened before.
Therefore, Everton opened their coffers and signed Lukaku permanently in the 2014-2015 season with a 5-year contract for a fee never before paid by Everton, 28 million pounds.
Lukaku became a goal-scoring machine at Everton, but unfortunately, they were just goals since the modest Liverpool team didn’t have the strength to compete for titles. In total, he spent four seasons with the Toffees, playing 166 games and scoring an incredible 87 goals.
In 2017, Everton tried but couldn’t hold onto their top scorer, and Manchester United paid around 75 million pounds to acquire the Belgian tank.
At Manchester, his start was explosive, as he seemed to fit right into the team and scored goals in various ways. However, over time, the 2018 World Cup arrived, where Lukaku performed very well, scoring 4 goals in the tournament and helping his team to finish in 3rd place.
After the World Cup, his performance dropped slightly, nothing significant, as he continued to score goals. However, a portion of the Red Devils’ fans and the media began to claim that Lukaku was overweight and not a committed player. This criticism gained so much momentum that it was no longer sustainable.
With 42 goals in 96 games, the top scorer bid farewell to United in 2019, and Inter Milan signed Lukaku for 65 million euros.
At Inter, it was more of the same as Lukaku couldn’t stop scoring. He won his first major title, the 2020-21 Scudetto. His partnership with the Argentine Lautaro Martínez was unstoppable, resulting in two wonderful seasons for the center-forward, especially due to the Scudetto win, which had eluded Inter for over 10 years. Lukaku was the best player in Serie A this season
In total, he played 86 games and scored an incredible 60 goals for Inter. However, once again, Lukaku was set to move, and this time, he returned to Chelsea, where he hadn’t had the opportunity to showcase his footballing skills in the early days of his career.
Despite Inter’s desire to keep the Lukaku and Lautaro partnership, Chelsea offered an irresistible sum, paying 113 million euros for the Belgian tank.
But ironically, Lukaku couldn’t find his rhythm at the London club. Even though he scored 15 goals in the 2021-2022 season, he faced harsh criticism from the English media and Chelsea fans, which led to his return to Inter Milan on loan for the following season.
In his return, unfortunately, he couldn’t recreate the incredible partnership with Lautaro. Still, he was an important substitute and even helped Inter secure the runner-up position in the Champions League.
Despite scoring 14 goals in the 2022-2023 season, Lukaku didn’t seem to be the same player. His explosiveness, physical strength, and goal-scoring instinct appeared to be weaker, and his confidence seemed shaken.
With so many transfers and moves across European clubs, Lukaku is the second football player who has been involved in the highest transfer fees, totaling 333 million euros, second only to Neymar, who tops the list with 410 million euros.
The Reunion with Confidence in Roma
After the end of the 2022/2023 season, Lukaku returned to Chelsea, but he was soon informed once again that he wasn’t part of the club’s plans in London. It was then speculated that he might return to Internazionale, but they evaded the deal and decided not to keep the Belgian for another season.
Time passed, and it seemed that Lukaku wouldn’t find a club to play for in the season, and he might end up warming the bench, or even not doing that at Chelsea.
That was until AS Roma, in a gamble by José Mourinho, who had often praised the Belgian striker’s potential, went after Lukaku and brought him in on a season-long loan.
Mourinho is confident that he will help Lukaku regain his top form, especially in terms of his confidence. The Portuguese manager doesn’t seem to have made an incorrect prognosis because Lukaku is having a blazing start to the season. With Roma, he has played 9 games and scored 7 goals so far, and for the Belgian national team, he scored 4 goals in 4 games.
It really seems like Lukaku’s confidence is fully restored. He’s going for every ball, making strong runs, and colliding with opponents, and his goal-scoring instinct is in top form once again.
Now, the question remains whether the rest of the season will continue with the same strength, as Roma relies on Lukaku’s goals for the pursuit of more European titles and better standings in Serie A.
Written by João Felipe Miller.