When players sign for a new club, they frequently announce that it had been a boyhood dream to play for Arsenal/Nottingham Forest/MK Dons. The number of clubs Robbie Keane supported as a young boy became a tedious punch line some time ago.
In the case of Romelu Lukaku, it's actually true.
Despite being a Belgian of Congolese descent, Lukaku was a Chelsea fan. He idolised Didier Drogba, to whom he is of course unfairly compared on the basis that they are both strong black men, and slept in a Chelsea shirt.
"The fans... the players… it's just my dream team," he tweeted (h/t The Guardian) when asked why he loved the club so much.
He was a giddy youngster when he joined as an 18-year-old in 2011, but since then he has grown. Not so much physically, as he was quite the specimen even when still a teenager, but he has matured as a player, evolving from the battering ram he used to be into a more thoughtful striker with a keen positional sense to go with his physique.
Not only that, there seems to be a heaviness to his eyes that wasn't there before.
During his loan spell at West Brom, Lukaku developed to such an extent that Jose Mourinho's decision to loan him out again—this time to Everton—was widely questioned. It then emerged that Lukaku had requested the loan himself, seemingly not convinced that he would play enough to continue his development.
“It's strange...I had to make a decision for myself,” he said. “Imagine I was playing for Chelsea now – I would play maybe five games...here everyone else is talking about me and I'm improving.”
Mourinho responded via the Metro:
"Romelu likes to speak. He is a young boy and he likes to speak," said Mourinho in today’s pre-match press conference.
"But the only thing he didn’t say was why he went to Everton on loan, that’s the only thing he never says.
"My last contact with him was to tell him exactly that. 'Why do you never say why you are not here?'"
Lukaku is on loan at Goodison Park until the end of this season. He already has seven goals, which have been worth six of Everton's 21 points. His second goal against Liverpool last weekend was an extraordinary combination of power and positional awareness that suggests he's already an exceptional player and learning quickly.
They're pretty happy with him there too.
"Rom has played a massive role with his goals, but also his presence on a day-to-day basis lifts everyone," Phil Jagielka told the Daily Mirror's David Anderson.
"He's hard work to train against, though. I try to stay as far as way as possible.”
He is arguably already Everton's most important player, but unless Bill Kenwright finally manages to find the investment he's been looking for over the past few years and—with all due respect and so on—Lukaku lowers his career ambitions a little, he won't be staying with Roberto Martinez's side beyond next May.
By rights, he should be ready to lead Chelsea's line by then, to fulfill the dream he had as a youngster in Antwerp and follow his idol Drogba.
However, given the disagreements that Lukaku has had with not only Mourinho but Andre Villas-Boas before him and others at the club, is his time at Chelsea over before it really began?
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