At the tender age of just 16, Romelu Lukaku fired his club, Anderlecht, to a Belgian League Championship – finishing the campaign as the country’s top scorer with 15 goals. This season, the Belgium International has notched 16 goals putting the Purple and Whites within touching distance of repeating the feat. Naturally, a host of Europe’s most prestigious clubs have declared an interest in the starlet, including Chelsea, Tottenham and Manchester City to name but a few, but haven’t we been here before when Freddy Adu burst on to the scene as a 14 year-old? The American is 21 now and plies his trade in the Turkish second division, so what does the future hold for the key talent in Belgium’s ‘golden generation,’ and where represents the best club to develop his talent to avoid an Adu-style descent?
Lukaku is a physical spectacle which places him above (literally) the several young pretenders who have come before him. He is 6ft 4inches and possesses the upper-body of a middle-weight boxer which allows him to outmuscle defenders and win aerial challenges in a way strikers ten years his senior would be proud of. That said, Lukaku also has a skill-set which includes lightning pace and Anderlecht perhaps rely on these attributes too often. His club are able to win the majority of their League games by playing long-balls up to the striker, but many fear that this tactic is impeding Lukaku’s development and preventing the expression of his technical skills which would be better honed at a bigger club.
It is well known that Lukaku shares a warm relationship with his father, Roger, himself an ex-professional footballer, and it is this bond which has helped Romelu to maintain his focus whilst surrounded by universal acclaim. Real Madrid are continually rumoured to be in negotiations with Anderlecht over the teenager’s signature, and Jose Mourinho has previously suggested that Lukaku’s father remains an important influence on the youngster, stating: “It is true we wanted Romelu, but he has a very clever dad. He wants Romelu to stay at Anderlecht for one more year. I wish all dads were like this.”
Lukaku is clearly surrounded by constructive influences at present and his coaches hold him in the highest regard. Yannick Ferrera, his youth coach since the age of thirteen, has underlined the striker’s temperament by claiming, “he knows what he wants – it is to become one of the best strikers in the world and to play at the very highest level.” So Lukaku is evidently determined to forge a successful career on the continent, at a club with a larger stature than Anderlecht, but where could he go in order to guarantee a successful progression?
Arsenal are continually associated with promising talent and Arsene Wenger has always sought to afford youngsters first-team opportunities, so the Emirates would represent his best chance of achieving extended game-time. On the other hand, Sir Alex Ferguson could provide Lukaku similar match practice at Old Trafford with the realistic chance of adding silverware to his CV. The Manchester United boss also has a respected reputation for developing youngsters and his regular employment of Javier Hernandez this season has produced startling results. Manchester City would of course be able to offer unrivalled financial terms, but I personally feel that Chelsea represent the most suitable Premier League option.
Albeit the Stamford Bridge outfit are under-going a managerial confidence crisis and have just purchased Fernando Torres for £50million, it is believed that Nicolas Anelka will be making a swift departure from West London this summer and that Salomon Kalou will quickly follow. Didier Drogba, at 33, is on his last legs but would be the perfect professional to teach Lukaku from his Premier League, Champions League and World Cup experience how to develop in to a player of his calibre. His powerful attributes complement the technical style of Torres and a potentially proficient goal-scoring partnership is easily envisaged.
For any teenage sensation, whether in football or other entertainment platforms, there are several steps that are required early on in order to assure career longevity. Gareth Bale turned down a move to Old Trafford before agreeing to sign for Tottenham, abandoning his short-term craving for silverware in order to secure his progression, and it is widely considered that he made a correct decision. Sunderland’s Jordan Henderson is notorious for his aversion to the media limelight and is tipped for a promising future as a result. Lukaku should acknowledge the many who have come, gone and stayed before him, extracting the positive aspects and remaining cautious of making a wrong move in order to prevent another Freddy Adu scenario.