Luk who's back
Belgium star Lukaku set to shine for Chelsea
Published: Sep 09, 2021 11:48 PM
Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea scores past Bernd Leno of Arsenal on August 22 in London, England. Photo: VCG

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea scores past Bernd Leno of Arsenal on August 22 in London, England. Photo: VCG

Romelu Lukaku has become one of the most highly rated strikers in world football. The 28-year old marked a century of caps for Belgium with another goal.

The Red Devils played the Czech Republic and Lukaku - already a clear leader as his nation's top scorer - kept up his incredible scoring run for national team.

Lukaku opened the scoring with his 67th goal in his 100th appearance, already a creditable strike rate in the international game. It should be noted that Lukaku scored 17 goals in his first 50 games for Belgium and he has 50 goals in his last 50 games for the country.

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez was full of praise for the striker after he scored in their game against Estonia before playing the Czech Republic.

"I think he is a living iconic figure of Belgian football. One hundred caps, 66 goals, at his age. He has a phenomenal attitude," Martinez said.

"I hope he can go on to 125 or maybe 150 caps. Sometimes you take for granted what we have. These players don't come often."

It is hoped that he 97.5 million pound striker can offer the same form for his club side as he does for his country having rejoined Chelsea in the summer window.

There was a slight question mark over his fitness for the English Premier League side after he picked up a knock on international duty, though having been booked against the Czechs he missed out a 101st Belgium game in midweek and flew back to London instead of playing against Belarus in their FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

"I'll have a scan of my thigh first," Lukaku said. "I am struggling with a minor issue for a while. And then I will return to Chelsea."

Chelsea play against Aston Villa in the English top flight as it returns after the international break.

Lukaku scored on his second ­Chelsea debut earlier this season, netting in a comfortable 2-0 win over Arsenal in the English Premier League. The Belgian scored the opener and also hit the bar as he went close to doubling his tally in the match between the London rivals.

It was exactly what he had been doing for Inter Milan in Serie A, where he won the Scudetto last season as the Nerazzuri ended a decade-long wait to be champions of Italy.

He arrived in Milan in 2019 after two years at Manchester United, where he scored 42 goals in 96 games in a period that has come to be seen as a failure for the forward. Lukaku returned to his very best at the San Siro and was a key player in their title win under Antonio Conte.

Nonetheless, his head was turned when former club Chelsea came in for him. Lukaku first signed for the Londoners in 2011 when they signed the raw teenager from Belgian side Anderlecht.

"I was only going to leave Inter Milan for Chelsea," Lukaku told Belgian media outlet HLN. "Kids love Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United. And Chelsea for me, everyone knows what Chelsea means to me.

"If they ask me, why would I say no? I only realised that Chelsea was serious at the third offer. So it was 100 million euros, then it was 105 million euros, and then it went to 110 million euros. Then I knew, this is truly serious."

Lukaku credited Inter Milan with helping him rebuild his career after he fell out of favor at Old Trafford once Ole Gunnar Solskjaer replaced Jose Mourinho as manager, first as caretaker and then as a permanent successor.

"I was in a deep hole at Man United. I didn't want to go behind Inter's back.

"So after training I went to [Inter manager Simone] Inzaghi's office. I didn't want to ruin the atmosphere because I was no longer with my head in Milan. So I asked him: please find an agreement."

Lukaku's previous time at Chelsea was not littered with glory. As with many other young players he found himself sent out on loan from Stamford Bridge.

The 18-year-old went on loan to West Bromwich Albion for a season and was then sent to Everton, where he impressed enough to earn a permanent move to Goodison Park in 2014.

Lukaku never scored in his first spell at Chelsea, of course, but he made up for that swiftly with his goal against the Gunners. He has quickly got up to speed with Thomas Tuchel's team.

"The first two training sessions, that intensity was so high that the first two or three days I had a bit of a scare," Lukaku said. "But two days before the match we had a training session where I scored two goals and I thought yes.

"The team is looking good, the coach is looking good, I love the system that we play because it's the same system as here [with Belgium], only the emphasis is different. For me it's fantastic because I play in a team that dominates."

While Chelsea dominate, in Lukaku's own view, and many see the striker as dominating games himself, the Belgian has spoken to end comparisons with another star forward returning to the English Premier League this season.

"Don't ever compare me to Cristiano Ronaldo, never," Lukaku said at a press conference while on Belgium duty, as Ronaldo set a new benchmark for goal's scored in men's national football.

"Cristiano Ronaldo is, for me, in the top three best players in the history of football," he continued. "I'm not going to rank him from first to third but he's in there.

"What he has achieved in football today for players of my generation is something exceptional.

"I was lucky enough to play against him in Italy and now that he's back in the Premier League, it's all good for English football. As for the rest, comparing statistics and all that, it's useless."

Blues fans will hope that comparisons at the end of the season are not useless as Lukaku's goals fire them back toward the English Premier League title.

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