The Blues have announced the signing of former Manchester City midfielder Yaya Toure.
The prodigy math game is the story of how a former prodigy, who was once deemed as one of the best young players in Europe, can fulfil his destiny in west London.
Romelu Lukaku’s destiny is beckoning. After Manchester City’s £100 million acquisition of Jack Grealish, the 28-year-old has completed a stunning return to Chelsea from Internazionale in a transaction that came just short of smashing the British transfer record for the second time in as many weeks.
COVID-19’s financial consequences have divided clubs in terms of their transfer market strength. Chelsea, who are supported by billionaire owner Roman Abramovich and have a smart and merciless recruiting plan, are ideally positioned to exploit Inter’s weaknesses.
Last season, the Nerazzurri ended an 11-year wait for a Serie A title, but the club’s owners, Suning, are in talks to sell it as they face the twin threats of reduced income due to the pandemic and a directive from Chinese President Xi Jinping demanding that foreign investors refocus their ambitions domestically. Inter had already lost defender Achraf Hakimi to Paris Saint-Germain for €70 million, and now they have lost Lukaku, who became Serie A’s top scorer with 44 goals in 63 appearances.
Inter fans are enraged by his leaving, and there is already a fan reaction. Protests are placing pressure on a board that is already under siege.
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The Blues were considering their options after two offers were rejected, as ESPN has reported, but a key element has been Lukaku telling the Inter leadership that he would want to go if a fair offer came.
So, why did Lukaku want to join Chelsea in the first place? The reason rests, at least in part, in finally having the opportunity to play like Didier Drogba, one of his all-time idols.
Lukaku joined Chelsea for £18 million from Anderlecht in 2011, and backroom personnel arranged for the talented but raw 18-year-old to sit next to Drogba in the Cobham changing room.
Given their big physiques and similar playing tendencies, there were clear parallels: strong centre-forwards capable of forcing opponents into submission. Lukaku, on the other hand, grew to respect Drogba for overcoming hardship earlier in his career.
@RomeluLukaku9, welcome home. #LukWhosBack pic.twitter.com/P43CAIVqfU
12 August 2021 — Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC)
Drogba stated in his book “Commitment” that he considered quitting Chelsea at the conclusion of his second season, in 2005-06, after feeling misunderstood and unappreciated while adjusting to English football. Some dismissed him as a blunt instrument, while others mocked him as a diver who went to ground too quickly.
Drogba had established his legendary reputation as one of the Premier League’s all-time greats by the time Lukaku arrived in west London five years later. Lukaku sat on the bench, unable to play, as the Ivory Coast international achieved sports immortality by hitting the game-winning penalty against Bayern Munich, delivering Chelsea’s first Champions League title with what seemed to be his last kick for the club.
Even if the narrative came at the cost of Lukaku’s own, it was a fairytale ending that prompted Lukaku to refer to Drogba as his “idol” a few years later. Instead of entrusting Lukaku with the burden of leading the line, Chelsea chose to bring Drogba back as a veteran for a second stint at the club in 2014.
Lukaku only played 15 times for Chelsea before being loaned out to West Bromwich Albion and subsequently Everton, who paid a club record £28 million for his services in 2015. With Galatasaray, Drogba won one Champions League, four Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, three League Cups, and one Turkish Super Lig championship, as well as 66 goals in 106 international games, which is an Ivory Coast record.
Romelu Lukaku joined Chelsea a decade ago and secured his return to the club on Thursday. Chelsea FC/Darren Walsh/Getty Images
According to ESPN, the two are still in contact on a daily basis, exchanging ideas and experiences that have brought Lukaku to the point where he feels ready to establish himself in English football once again. Drogba, however, can’t wait, having sent out a tweet five days earlier with a photo of Lukaku and the words “He’s coming home.” Both Lukaku and Chelsea seem to be at the right place at the right moment.
In 381 appearances with Chelsea, Drogba scored 164 goals. Frank Lampard (211), Bobby Tambling (202), and Kerry Dixon (193) are the only players with more. He developed into a terrifying centre-forward capable of winning games on his own, combining great technique and intellect with incredible strength and aerial ability. He was just unplayable a lot of the time.
Chelsea have found him to be essentially irreplaceable, although not without trying. Since the conclusion of his initial eight-year tenure in 2012, the club is thought to have spent about £230 million on strikers. There have been a dozen or so attempts to fill Drogba’s shoes, but only one has come close.
Diego Costa, a £32 million transfer from Atletico Madrid in 2014, spent three years with the club, scoring 52 goals in 89 appearances and helping them win the Premier League twice. Costa’s combative approach drew few admirers outside of Stamford Bridge, and he eventually got weary of English football in the manner Drogba had warned. He had 31 yellow cards in 120 games, which just scrapes the surface of how he scratched others.
Apart from Costa, Olivier Giroud has played an excellent supporting role for the club in recent seasons, but Fernando Torres, Alvaro Morata, Michy Batshuayi, Loic Remy, and Demba Ba all failed miserably, while loan deals for Radamel Falcao, Gonzalo Higuain, and Alexandre Pato all failed to pay off. After a squandering first season in England, Timo Werner has threatened to join that list, which is why Lukaku has been brought in.
Chelsea’s main aim, according to ESPN, was Erling Haaland, but Borussia Dortmund are hesitant to sell the 21-year-old prodigy this summer, despite general recognition that the Blues need a 20-goal striker to compete for the Premier League championship.
When Lukaku last played in England, there were concerns about his ability to be that player. Few people would bet against him right now.
Lukaku was on the verge of joining Chelsea when it became apparent that he had outgrown Everton in 2017. The presence of Jose Mourinho at Manchester United was a major influence in Lukaku’s choice to go to Old Trafford, but insiders say that Chelsea’s unwillingness to pay a large price to Lukaku’s agent, Mino Raiola, was more important.
Frank Leboeuf, a Chelsea great, is delighted for Romelu Lukaku, who is allegedly close to returning to Stamford Bridge.
His time at United was a mixed bag. After a strong start, in which he scored 11 of his 42 goals for the club (or 26 percent of his total), he slowed down, prompting concerns about his application and fitness.
Mourinho was replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer in December 2018, and he immediately went about building a team that really wanted to play for United. He felt they were better off without Lukaku, who arrived to Inter in 2019 with the goal of re-establishing himself.
He started by reducing his weight. Lukaku dropped three kilos in a month after manager Antonio Conte advised him to adopt the Bresaola diet, which emphasizes the consumption of white meat and vegetables.
Following Giroud’s move to AC Milan, he has significantly improved his link-up play, something Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel believes his squad lacks.
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“With Olivier Giroud’s departure from the type of players [we have], we could use a player who is used to playing with their back to goals and whose strength is keeping possession from long balls so we can add this direct style of play to our portfolio, and this is the characteristic of a player who is not Tammy [Abraham], Timo, or Kai [Havertz],” the Blues manager said earlier this month. “This is a profile we don’t have in the team and may be helpful, but not at any expense, and not in a panic, since we’ll be competitive no matter what happens.”
Lukaku has developed into a complete centre-forward, although one for whom Chelsea had to pay a high price and is likely to have limited resale value. Few players can equal his club record of 251 goals in 508 games and 64 goals in 98 for Belgium, but perhaps more importantly, he believes he is ready to be regarded among the greatest in the world.
“They would say it’s world-class level when they speak about [Robert] Lewandowski, [Karim] Benzema, [Luis] Suarez, [Harry] Kane,” Lukaku remarked at Euro 2020. “I believe I’ve shown that it’s not simply excellent form over the past two years. I’m a member of that group, and I’m at that level.”
Drogba would undoubtedly agree.