Romelu Lukaku insists he can become a Chelsea star second time around.
If Romelu Lukaku wants to help Chelsea win the Premier League, he will have to demonstrate that he is a more efficient footballer than he was when he last played in England with Manchester United.
There is no question in Lukaku’s mind that he will. His two-year stint at Inter Milan in Italy not only rekindled confidence, but it also yielded a technical breakthrough that some believe took much too long to come. Antonio Conte, who led Chelsea to their last league triumph in 2017, is the coach he praises.
On Wednesday, Lukaku remarked, “The Italian game is so different because it’s so tactical and technical.”
‘We’ve always had a lot of stuff.’ I was back to goal the majority of the time, and everything was going through me. ‘I recall having a discussion about this with Conte.’ He informed me that if I wasn’t excellent at it, I wouldn’t be allowed to play. That was a real eye-opener for me. Everything got easy for me after I grasped that element.’ The game would slow down, allowing me to exert greater control and provide more assists. That was something I really wanted to accomplish, and I wanted to do it in a different nation where I believed it would be advantageous to my future career.’
Lukaku, who is still only 28, now gets his chance, and it will be intriguing to watch how he uses it.
His first season at Chelsea, when he was barely 18, was neither memorable nor instructive. His tenure at Everton, on the other hand, proved to be both.
Lukaku was nearly unplayable at times back then, but mostly when the ball was put in front of him or in the air. He was occasionally effective at Manchester United, but only when called upon to contribute the type of link-up play he now claims to have honed and developed in Serie A.
‘You come to a point where you don’t battle against perception,’ he added.
‘When I traveled to Italy, I said to myself, ‘Really, that’s something I thought to myself.’ That I’m a part of this zone where people mistake me for a specific sort of gamer.
‘I am so much more than what people expect to see in me.’ Going to Italy and playing with Belgium, I believe, shown to the rest of the world what I am capable of.
He was with Chelsea when they won the Champions League in 2012, although he didn’t play any part in the victory. He grinned as he said, ‘I was there yet I wasn’t there.’
Lukaku talked with Didier Drogba and Thierry Henry ahead of his return to the west London club for over £100 million. His most eye-opening talks, though, he claims, have been with his new coach, Tuchel.
‘What I appreciate about him is that he has a new game plan for every game,’ Lukaku added. ‘That’s something I told him the first time we spoke.’ “Look, I’ve tried to figure out what you’re trying to accomplish with the team, but I’ve never been able to because every game is different,” I remarked.
‘That’s what piqued my interest in coming to play for him.’ Because he is a strategically extremely capable manager.
‘He wants to contribute something new to the squad than what he already had.’ I believe I am unique among all of his players.’
Previous tenants of the No9 shirt, which Lukaku will wear — maybe as early as Sunday at Arsenal — have hung heavily on their shoulders. Lukaku may have more to prove than most of those who have come before him, even if he is unaware of it.