Chelsea Arrivals Again Leave Lukaku Out In The Cold

It's clear that Jose Mourinho has a problem with Romelu Lukaku, and it appears he will be leaving Chelsea for good. Is Jose in danger of cutting off his nose to spite his face?

Last Updated: 26/07/14 at 13:58 Post Comment

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"The transfer market closes on August 31 and we close our market on July 19. We finished the market today" - Jose Mourinho, July 19.

"This summer, we've bought new players and we are trying to build for the next decade" - Jose Mourinho, July 24.

Taking Jose Mourinho's words as the gospel truth has long been a foolish pastime, but to disprove two claims in one move is an impressive feat even for Jose, a man who almost prides himself on an ability to make people erroneously take his words as verbatim. In signing Didier Drogba on a one-year contract as a player (with no future coaching plans included), Mourinho at least partially invalidated his claim that he was building for the future. The departure of Romelu Lukaku now seems an inevitable occurrence - this time his parting will be of a permanent nature.

Mourinho's treatment of Lukaku has been a bone of contention for some time. When the Belgian claimed in December that he would like to remain at Everton for another season, the Chelsea manager was quick to put him in his place. "Maybe there is a new rule in football where when the season finishes every player is able to decide their own future," Mourinho said sarcastically. "Romelu likes to speak. He's a young boy who likes to speak." Stones can be heard hitting the windows of a glass house.

Lukaku's continued disappointment is at his lack of opportunities at Stamford Bridge since arriving for around £18million in August 2011. He has played just 199 Premier League minutes for Chelsea, loaned out to both West Brom and Everton on season-long deals, and evidently feels that he has been unfairly rejected by the club despite meriting an extended chance to impress.

It's difficult to disagree. Lukaku only turned 21 at the end of last season, and yet the only current Premier League player with more PL goals in the last two seasons than the Belgian's total of 32 is Robin van Persie. That Lukaku achieved such a feat whilst playing for Everton and West Brom, where service (particularly away from home) was occasionally scarce, indicates just how comfortable he is playing as the central striker in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 formation, precisely the approach Mourinho may well utilise at Chelsea next season.

A comparison of the number of league goals scored by the age of 21 sees Lionel Messi with 57, Michael Owen 55 and Wayne Rooney 44 - Lukaku has 65. This may not yet be the complete striker, but at such a tender age nor should he be - what he has demonstrated is that he could be one of the best forwards in the world in three or four years' time.

It isn't as if things have been going swimmingly for Chelsea in such an area, either. It is likely that the title would have been won last season had Jose Mourinho had a competent striker at his disposal. Samuel Eto'o scored nine times (before being released), whilst Demba Ba and Fernando Torres managed just ten goals between them. In each of the last two seasons, Lukaku has outscored Chelsea's top Premier League goalscorer.

The contrast between Lukaku and Torres is the most striking, the Belgian managing more league goals in his last two seasons (at Everton and West Brom, remember) than Torres has in his last four seasons at Chelsea and Liverpool. Lukaku's shot accuracy of 62.5% and conversion rate of 20.83% dwarfs that of Torres (48.65% and 13.51%), and yet it is Torres that will remain at Stamford Bridge, his high wages and pitifully low output making him a less than tempting proposition.

Mourinho has attempted to rectify his striking woes, recruiting Diego Costa for £32million from Atletico Madrid. Costa was continuously excellent for Atletico in both La Liga and the Champions League, but has only ever scored more than ten in a league season on one occasion- Lukaku has done so four times. His accuracy (57%) was also lower than Lukaku's last season.

It's a move that has left former Chelsea coach (and current Real Madrid assistant) Paul Clement not entirely convinced. "Costa's aggression and nastiness is the key, as without that he'd be a fairly average player," Clement said. "I'm not surprised Mourinho has signed him as he's the kind of player who'd die on the pitch for his team-mates, but he won't find it as easy to bully defenders in England as he did in Spain." Chelsea have taken a gamble, of that there is no doubt, the financial burden at least eased by Paris St Germain's unfathomable decision to pay £40million for David Luiz.

The bizarre conclusion, however, is that if Mourinho wanted a physical presence to lead his line, that is exactly what Lukaku constitutes (with the added bonus of Premier League experience and success). He won 38% of his aerial duels (compared to Costa's 21%) and was dispossessed only 1.7 times per game in the Premier League. Costa's figure of 3.6 is markedly higher.

That is certainly the opinion of Joel Robles, team-mate of Lukaku at Goodison last season: "He's a lot like Costa but I would say he is even more physically powerful," Robles said. "He is a player who fights a lot and has a goal in him, like Costa. Lukaku is a player who always faces up. He never hides if a game gets ugly, and has a lot of character."

And so, whilst one of the Premier League's most potent strikers will be allowed to leave at the age of just 21 without Chelsea even making a meaningful profit, with both Atletico and Real Madrid reportedly keen on a move.

All eyes now turn to Costa, Chelsea's second most expensive ever purchase. If it works out anything like the Spaniard above Costa on that list, supporters will be rightly questioning why Lukaku is being permitted to leave. What's more, why did he never even get a meaningful chance when other clubs rate him so highly?

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