Dubbed as the new Didier Drogba, Romelu Lukaku had the world at his feet when he arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2012.
The 18-year-old had impressed in the Belgian league and his physical prowess had tempted Chelsea to part with a reported £12 million (+£6 million in add ons) for the teenager.
However, Lukaku failed to show his full potential in his few appearances under then manager Andre Villas-Boas.
Things fared little better for him under AVB’s replacement, Roberto Di Matteo, who relied heavily on Drogba to finish with an FA Cup and Champions League double.
Lack of playing time frustrated the young Belgian, who made his feelings very clear in an interview with a Belgian newspaper.
“I don’t like people talking to me about the Champions League. It wasn’t me, but my team that won.”
Because of his lack of playing time, Lukaku made himself an outsider and didn’t become part of the group that had won the biggest trophy there is to win in European club football.
In the same interview, Lukaku spoke about the clubs FA Cup win and reiterated the fact that he might have been a Chelsea player, but he didn’t belong to Chelsea.
“When [Salomon] Kalou put the cup on my lap in the bus I asked him to take it away immediately. I didn’t want to touch it because just as with the Champions League I had no part in it at all.”
Would any youngster aged just 18, be a regular starter for a major European club which already had experienced strikers such as Drogba and the £50 million Fernando Torres in the squad?
Lukaku obviously thought otherwise and wanted playing time and was loaned out to West Bromwich Albion for the 2012-2013 campaign.
Upon his return to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea had a new manager in the form of Jose Mourinho at the helm, and Lukaku had appeared to rule out another loan move.
However, Mourinho could not promise Lukaku regular first team football and after coming on in extra time of Chelsea’s Super Cup final defeat to Bayern Munich, was loaned out again, this time to his new club, Everton.
The Belgian was not shy of letting the press know how he felt, and Mourinho was forced to defend himself against claims that Lukaku was forced out of Chelsea.
“Romelu likes to speak. He’s a young boy who likes to speak.” Said Mourinho.
“But the only thing he doesn’t say is why he went to Everton on loan. That’s the only thing he never says.
“And my last contact with him was to say exactly that, I said ‘why do you never say why you are not here?’
“So it’s something he should talk about because he likes to speak. It’s something he should say, the reason why he is not with Chelsea and is in Everton.”
It’s very clear that after Lukaku was told he would not be first choice and could not be guaranteed playing time, he asked to leave.
He was not willing to fight for his place against Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o, and wanted the easier option.
Last season Chelsea lacked the firepower needed to win the league, had Lukaku stayed, he could have easily been first choice by the end of the season, and possibly, could have been a Premier League Champion.
Lukaku should take a look at Chelsea’s new number one striker Diego Costa, the 25-year-old has had to fight to be where he is today.
Costa had been loaned out five times, most recently in 2012, before he made it at Atletico Madrid and went on to become a La Liga Champion and Champions League runner-up.
The Spaniard had played second fiddle to the likes of Sergio Aguero, Radamel Falcao and Diego Forlan before making the starting spot his own. Now he is regarded as one of Europe’s best forwards and has control of the starting spot in Chelsea’s attack.
There’s no doubt Lukaku has untapped potential, but he needs to put his money where his mouth is, Lukaku has shown he has scored goals, but has yet to rise to the big occasion. A disappointing World Cup and a move to a club without Champions League football could dent his progress but under the guidance of Roberto Martinez, Lukaku could become a Premier League great.
Lukaku might speak about how he wasn’t given a fair chance at Chelsea, but he wasn’t willing to meet the club half way, there’s only one person to blame for his Chelsea career not working out, and that’s himself.