There was a moment last season when all the hype surrounding Romelu Lukaku suddenly made sense.
It was during West Bromwich Albion’s loss to Reading back in January, prior to a crazy last eight minutes that saw the Royals turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 victory.
Reading’s Hollywood ending meant Lukaku’s sub-plot was lost to many, and yet his was the performance I wrote about afterwards. After all, he was the man who had scored two, had a third ruled out for offside, hit the post, struck the bar, and generally looked a class apart.
At the time, he was only 19; a fact that was often overlooked last year due to his imposing stature and his ability. But while he is already one of the most exciting young forwards in Europe; imagine how good he will be by his mid-20s.
In many ways, this season is the start of Lukaku’s Chelsea career, despite signing for them back in 2011.
His record at The Hawthorns, along with his all-round performances, speaks of a man ready for the big-time; a striker with all the attributes to become a Chelsea legend.
And while Jose Mourinho’s side continues to be linked with a new striker – be that Wayne Rooney, Samuel Eto’o or Rodrigo – they have a man who I for one believe can make the difference both now and in the future.
“It’s not easy at Chelsea,” he said earlier this summer, “it’s not easy at all.
“You have to show yourself every day because you know how big the competition is and, if you don’t do well, there is always a player that can take your place.”
That is very true, and yet Lukaku may no longer be the man fearing for his place, but the one to instil fear in his fellow strikers.
I said last year that Chelsea’s best striker wasn’t even at the club. Now he has returned, it is time for him to show that last season wasn’t a one-off, but a prelude to bigger and better things.
How important will Lukaku be for the Blues this season?
image: © wshjackson