Romelu Lukaku has stated he feels he may have to leave Chelsea following reports the club is close to sealing a deal for Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa, but in truth, Lukaku's exit from the club started to look like a foregone conclusion a long time ago.
Via Sky Sports, the 21-year-old Belgian international spoke on the Blues' acquisition of Costa, and he didn't hold back:
You know Chelsea: every year they buy a new top striker.
I remember me coming into the dressing room last year and seeing Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba and going: 'Whoah! What's happening here?'
But no problem. Many clubs are interested in me and at this stage I have to look to myself.
I have to play a good World Cup. That's very interesting for all the players looking for a transfer, and I must be one of them. Chelsea know my point of view.
Social media immediately exploded once those comments were released. Fans like Footballradar's Jack Rathborn instantly spoke on the player's lack of character when faced with adversity:
Love how Lukaku expects to just be handed a starting role by Mourinho, delusional beyond belief, not how it works, Romelu— Jack Rathborn (@jackrathborn) June 7, 2014
Lukaku lacks a spine. He's mentally weak, not willing to fight for the starting position or too conceited to realise top clubs like Chelsea don't just hand you things on a silver platter. These seemed to be the initial reactions from fans who couldn't believe what they had just read.
Breathe. Step back, look at the full picture and see this for what it really is. It is a business decision, and something that became inevitable as soon as Jose Mourinho picked up the phone to see whether Samuel Eto'o could join the club last season.
Chelsea are one the of the greatest clubs in world football, and they have nothing but trophies on their minds at the start of every season. They are led by one of the greatest minds in football in Mourinho, and they have the financial firepower to compete with the best of them.
They're not afraid to use those finances either, bringing star talent to the club every year. An instant impact is a must, and if a player can't cut it at the highest level, he will be replaced by someone else.
Talent development? Not the club's strong suit. In fact, it's a major weakness. The lack of players coming up from the youth ranks would be alarming if it wasn't for the fact the Blues simply don't need them.
Even the young supertalents the club seems to bring into the fold more often than not run into a brick wall once they complete the move to Stamford Bridge. It's survival of the fittest, and Chelsea have been wildly successful using that system.
Right in the middle of all of this is Lukaku, a 21-year-old striker who has been touted as a future star ever since he could count to 10. The Belgian made the move to the Premier League at a very early age, and he was always going to be a project, requiring time to make an impact for the Blues.
His loan at West Bromwich Albion went well, and following a solid summer with Chelsea, his season playing for Everton was even better. Lukaku's confidence grew, and his performances with the Belgian national team started to show that.
By the end of the 2013-14 season, he had grown into a starting-caliber striker with a bright future (provided he could continue his development). But looking at the examples set by some of his Red Devils teammates and Daniel Sturridge, he suddenly realised he had a choice to make.
When Kevin de Bruyne left Chelsea, he had grown disillusioned with the lack of opportunities he was provided with. Sturridge's talent was plain for everyone to see, but he simply couldn't reach his potential playing for the Blues.
As for stopper Thibaut Courtois, well, there's this, via Sportive23:
Courtois says he has "no emotional connection" to Chelsea.— Sportive23 (@Sportive23_) May 23, 2014
This fan perhaps put it best:
Chelsea aren't a football club of opportunity, showed that with Sturridge, De Bruyne and most recently Lukaku.— JohnSheil (@John_Sheil_28) June 7, 2014
Chelsea simply aren't a club that provide youngsters with opportunities to prove themselves. They don't have a good track record when it comes to developing youngsters, and Lukaku knows it. He has seen it with his own eyes.
Is Lukaku making a smart business decision leaving?
Whether Lukaku deserves a chance and should man up and fight for spot on this team is irrelevant in this case—he doesn't see a future at the club, and history indicates he's probably right.
Lukaku and his management are making a business decision. He can choose to stay with Chelsea and risk suffering the same fate as players like De Bruyne and Sturridge before him, or he can move on to a club who has proven in the past it is more interested in developing its younger players.
Chelsea don't have a sales pitch in this situation—they lost that when they decided to bring in Demba Ba and Samuel Eto'o last season, and they reaffirmed their position when they decided to invest millions in Costa, injury or no.
The message was clear: We don't develop, we buy. It has worked before, and it will work again. There's nothing wrong with that, but such a transfer policy has its consequences.
Fans will demonize Lukaku for taking the easy way out if he follows through on his threat of leaving the club, but in reality, a split between the two parties has already been in the making for a long time. Young talent and Chelsea simply don't go well together, and Lukaku's departure will be a timely reminder of that fact.