Comment: Why Jose Mourinho will be taking a big gamble if he puts his faith in Romelu Lukaku
“He was not highly motivated to come to a competitive situation at Chelsea.”
The damning words of Jose Mourinho as he explained his reasons for advising Chelsea to accept Everton’s £28m offer for Romelu Lukaku in the summer of 2014 left a lasting scar on the reputation of a striker who has rarely got through an interview since without being asked about those comments.
Mourinho’s claim that Lukaku lacked the desire to fight for his place in his team represented a stinging right hook planted on the Belgian striker, yet he has spent the last three years rebuilding his image.
By scoring 53 Premier League goals in Everton colours, the powerhouse 24-year-old striker revitalised his image to the point where he has become one of the most wanted strikers in the game, with his desire to return to Chelsea and realise the dream taken away from him by Mourinho appearing to be his next career move.
Lukaku has made no secret of his desire to follow in the footsteps of his hero Didier Drogba and lead the line for Chelsea and he may not have even considered the prospect of a reunion with Mourinho at Manchester United…until now.
As news broke on Thursday that United were in talks over a £75m deal to sign Everton forward Lukaku, the transfer most suspected would never happen moved a giant step closer.
With United skipper Wayne Rooney moving to Everton as part of the deal that will see Lukaku link up with Mourinho at United, the star quality associated with this transfer has A-list quality all over it and analysis of the deal of the summer can now begin.
United’s long pursuit of Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata looks set to come to an end as they refused to pay the asking price for the Spanish striker, with the frosty relations between the Spanish giants and their Old Trafford counterparts hardly helped by the agonised transfer talks over the deal in recent weeks.
Yet is Lukaku really the man Mourinho needs to fire his side from a sixth place finish last season into genuine title contenders when the new campaign kicks off next month?
While he processes a raw talent that can terrorise defenders who are not operating at the top level of the game, a glance at the opposition he scored against last season suggests he may not be the A-list performer Mourinho is looking for.
Of the 25 goals Lukaku scored in the Premier League last season, only four came against sides that finished in the top six, with his four goal hauls against Bournemouth and Sunderland boosting his end of season statistics.
Lukaku scored against Sunderland, Middlesbrough, Crystal Palace, West Ham, Watford, Leicester, Southampton, Sunderland, Bournemouth, Hull and Burnley last season, but often turned in ineffective displays against the big-hitters in the Premier League, fuelling the belief that he he is not a player who shines on the biggest of stages.
So while Lukaku may claim he needs to be playing Champions League football to prove his worth as one of the world’s top strikers, Mourinho and United will be taking something of a gamble if they rely on the 24-year-old Belgian to lead their line as they return to Europe’s elite competition next season.
Lukaku is a fine Premier League player, but United need a striker of proven world class quality to turn their nearly me into title challengers next season.
Having failed the Mourinho test when he was pitched alongside the demanding tactician at Chelsea, there can be no guarantees that the story will have a more glorious ending if Lukaku is reunited with his old boss at Manchester United.