Romelu Lukaku: 5 Reasons Why Chelsea Need Him Back Next Season
Sure, we'd heard the scouting reports and seen the YouTube footage, but how good was the then 18-year-old?
Well, after 12 months in England and a season spent largely on the bench, we were still none the wiser.
Lukaku was a mystery—until he joined West Bromwich Albion on loan, that is.
The 2012-13 season has been a great season for Lukaku.
His 13 Premier League goals for the Baggies make his 2011 transfer fee seem like loose change for Chelsea. He has come of age, living up to the hype that has long surrounded him.
Given his form in the Midlands, it's no wonder Lukaku has suggested he would like to remain at the Hawthorns for another season as he continues his development (via Daily Mail).
But will Chelsea let him?
The player has been compared to Didier Drogba by many and his reputation continues to grow. We will take a look at why Lukaku could prove to be the missing piece for the Blues next term.
Lukaku Fits the Lone Striker Role
In the 2-2 draw with Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday, it was evident Chelsea were lacking a physical presence up front.
For all the menace Chelsea's "Three Amigos" and Ramires were providing in the second half, the Blues needed a striker with brute force who was capable of playing directly through the middle and marshaling Rio Ferdinand and Jonny Evans.
Demba Ba tried, but he isn't capable of imposing himself the way Didier Drogba so often did during his eight years at Stamford Bridge.
In Romelu Lukaku, the Blues now have that striker.
Chelsea's system of 4-2-3-1 is perfectly set for a man of his talents. And while Lukaku has a very long way to go if he is to ever emulate Drogba, he certainly has all the qualities to achieve such a feat.
He's Not Just a Lone Star
At times this season, West Bromwich Albion boss Steve Clarke has paired Romelu Lukaku and Shane Long in attack.
This move has caused havoc for their opponents.
The Baggies have since enjoyed a fine campaign, competing in the top 10 and leaving fears of relegation firmly to one side.
That Lukaku-Long partnership has been integral. They may not have started many games together, but the ones they did have demonstrated Lukaku's talents outside of his goal-scoring exploits.
Having the Belgian within their ranks would certainly give Chelsea another option, easing the burden on Fernando Torres and Demba Ba.
It may have been against League 1 opposition, but Torres and Ba linked up well against Brentford in the FA Cup this term when they combined to rescue a replay for the Blues. It demonstrated that the pair can not only led the line individually, but can also play alongside a partner.
Add Lukaku to the equation and suddenly Chelsea's attack looks like a formidable force once more.
Lukaku Eases the Financial Fair Play Burden
The true impact of UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules can only be predicted right now, but one thing is certain: clubs need to show they are complying.
Chelsea have long been linked with a big-money move for Atletico Madrid's Radamel Falcao, but with Romelu Lukaku within their ranks Roman Abramovich could very well save himself the odd £50 million.
Sure, the Colombian is among the world's finest strikers. But with a player such Lukaku demonstrating he is ready to realize his own potential, why should Chelsea make another marque signing in a bid for glory?
Fernando Torres remains a fine player who brings plenty to the Chelsea line-up; however, both fans and the Chelsea owner want to see some goals in return for a £50 million investment.
And Torres hasn't delivered extensively during his time in a blue shirt.
The Spanaird's signing shows that money cannot guarantee success.
With Lukaku waiting in the wings, why take that risk again?
He Adds Defensive Prowess
Forgive the Didier Drogba comparison once more, but even the young Belgian has made no secret that he has modeled his game on Drogba's. Comparing the two will be a natural response when considering what Lukaku brings to a team.
There were times at Chelsea when Drogba proved equally effective in preventing goals as he did scoring them. And so too would Lukaku, as he has proved for West Bromwich Albion this season.
With John Terry, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic at the back, the Blues have defenders more than adept in the air.
But they are sometimes outmuscled and still in need of set-pieces this season.
Lukaku wouldn't be a magical solution in this instance, but he would offer similar protection for Drogba by tightening things up for set-pieces.
Lukaku Would Bring Balance
Moving to a less direct style of play, Chelsea have brought in a number of talented individuals, such as Oscar and Juan Mata, with the intention of passing their way through teams.
In doing so, however, the Blues have lost that physical edge that once made them unstoppable.
The desire to win remains, as does the talent, but at times they have been out maneuvered this term and have come in for criticism as a result.
With Romelu Lukaku, such instances would be harder to come by.
In Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, Manchester United have players who can impose themselves when needed. The same applies at Manchester City with Edin Dzeko and Yaya Toure, while Tottenham Hotspur have Emmanuel Adebayor and Sandro.
The point is this: In their pursuit to add a touch more beauty to their game, Chelsea have perhaps neglected the substance.
Bringing back Lukaku from his loan for 2013-14 will add that physical element back to Chelsea's game and help them back on the road to success.