How Romelu Lukaku has evolved since leaving Chelsea – The Athletic


With less than a week to go until the start of the new Premier League season, Chelsea appear to finally have their new No 9 — and it’s a familiar face.

Romelu Lukaku is on his way back at Stamford Bridge almost exactly 10 years on from his first arrival as a raw but prodigiously gifted 18-year-old. This time, he will have superstar billing, a club-record price tag and the knowledge he will be afforded the chance to prove himself able to spearhead the team he supported as a boy.

It has been a long and, at times, strange road to get to this point.

Lukaku left Chelsea for Everton a frustrated figure in the summer of 2014 after prolific loan seasons with them and West Bromwich Albion, the signing of Diego Costa having crystallised Jose Mourinho’s lack of belief in the imposing young Belgian’s readiness to take up the mantle of his idol Didier Drogba.

Three years later, it was Chelsea’s turn to feel snubbed, burned by Mino Raiola and out-manoeuvred by Manchester United in their attempt to bring him back to west London from Goodison Park. That failure forced them down the Alvaro Morata path, to the misfortune of everyone involved.

For Lukaku, the last four years have yielded disappointment at United and reinvigoration at Inter Milan; for Chelsea, they have yielded no goalscorer in Lukaku’s class. Yet despite them crying out for a truly elite No 9, the window for a reunion appeared to have closed. Erling Haaland emerged as the striker that every “superclub” owner, including Roman Abramovich, coveted beyond all others.