Friday 15 December 2017

Lukaku: City don't scare me

Everton's Romelu Lukaku
Everton's Romelu Lukaku

Chris Bascombe

If Roberto Martínez fancies a break from delivering an impassioned pre-match speech to his Everton players tomorrow, he need only turn to Romelu Lukaku.

To say the Belgian is engaging in some fighting talk ahead of Manchester City's visit to Goodison Park underestimates his belligerence. All that is missing is the combat gear.

Vincent Kompany and Eliaquim Mangala have been promised the kind of contest Eddie Hearn ought to be promoting, while Sergio Agüero has been warned to watch his back in the race for the Golden Boot.

"I know Vincent and I know Mangala from years ago. I know what to do," said Lukaku. "I am taller than them. I am bigger than them. So I am not scared. It will be a very good physical battle but I will try to dominate."

At his best, Lukaku has always been a mix of brawn and beauty. He says he can combine the finest qualities of Agüero and Diego Costa.

"Yes, because I can see a pass sometimes. If I know the defender's coming, I can turn from him, dribble past somebody else and then give the last pass," he explained.

"If it comes out on a consistent basis, then I can add that to my size, power and pace. Sometimes Costa's on the edge. I'm not on the edge. I'm like this; if I get the ball and start running, just get out of the way, because you'll be on the floor."

There is a pause as Lukaku is asked if he truly believes he can better his City and Chelsea rivals.

"Yes. Yes," says the Belgian. "Because there are some aspects in my game where I have the potential, but it has to come out.

"If you want to be one of the best you have to look at the best. At the moment that's men like Costa and Agüero. Costa has that combativeness. He terrorises defences just with the look in the opponent's eye.

"With Agüero he can run in behind, come to feet, hold the ball, dribble past a few players.

"You have to look at them and think, 'what do you have that I don't?' and add it to your game."

Do not mistake Lukaku's self-analysis as arrogance, or mock it as delusional. The 22-year-old is as critical of himself as he is confident in what he can become.

"If you don't have ambition to be one of the best, someone will always come and take your place," he said. "I want that consistency like all the big players have."

This admission demonstrates that Lukaku knows he does not convince everyone. He arrived from Chelsea with flattering comparisons to Didier Drogba, but last year was more often likened to Emile Heskey - effective on his day but too inconsistent.

He explains: "There were personal things," he said. "It was my most difficult year.

"When I signed for Everton permanently my father was very ill and I was not in a good place. I was going home all the time to see if he was all right. I am alone here.

"I also started the season off with a few injuries and there were a few games when I played when I was not fit.

"Then my friend Junior Malanda died. I really wasn't good at that time. It was hard for me.

"If your life is good off the pitch you can always give that 20pc more. I discovered there are some things you don't know how to handle.

"People associate the footballer with the glamour but we have a life as well. For me, family has always been more important than football. My goal celebration now is for Junior but also for God." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Everton v Man City, Live, Sky Sports 1, tomorrow, 4.00pm

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