Torres warned Chelsea place under threat from Lukaku
Jose Mourinho has warned that Romelu Lukaku is already challenging to take Fernando Torres' place in the Chelsea team, regardless of whether he signs Wayne Rooney.
Lukaku scored his second goal in two pre-season games in Chelsea's 4-1 win against a Malaysia XI and, although Rooney remains his primary transfer target, Mourinho already regards the 20-year-old Belgian as a viable option to spearhead his attack against Hull City on August 18.
Mourinho has also been encouraged by the training displays of Demba Ba and will start him against Indonesia on Thursday, with Torres, the club's £50m record signing, not due back for pre-season training until July 28.
Asked if Lukaku was now challenging Torres, Mourinho said: "Of course. Lukaku started the first two matches and Demba will start in Jakarta. They are learning to play the way I want. Every manager has his own ideas. Lukaku had a fantastic manager last season, but Steve (Clarke) is Steve.
"I am me and West Brom is not Chelsea. It's up to the kid, but he's open and intelligent enough to learn the kind of movement we want."
After creating a spectacularly finished chance for Kevin de Bruyne, calmly scoring himself and constantly provoking panic in the Malaysia defence, it was inevitable that Lukaku should be compared to Didier Drogba. His 17 Premier League goals last season also mark him out as a precocious talent, but Mourinho believes that it would be unfair to make the Drogba analogy.
"We have to respect Didier because he is unique in Chelsea's history, and we have to respect Lukaku," he said. "The best way to do that is not compare him to a legend in Chelsea's history. Leave Didier where he is, at the top of Chelsea's history, and leave Lukaku to work hard. The kid is good."
Mourinho has been delighted by the pre-season performances of another Belgian, Kevin de Bruyne, but there were fears yesterday that he had suffered a serious injury.
De Bruyne hyper-extended his right knee in scoring Chelsea's second goal and was taken off on a stretcher. There will be further assessment today, but the initial prognosis was positive and Mourinho hopes that he will continue to play a full part in the club's preparations for the season.
De Bruyne put in an accurate cross to create Chelsea's first goal for Bertrand Traore, a 17-year-old midfielder from Burkina Faso who has greatly impressed Mourinho during his six-week trial.
Chelsea will offer Traore, who is in England on a student visa, a contract when he turns 18 in September. He will then almost certainly go on loan until he obtains his work permit.
(© Independent News Service)