Fittingly, it was Didier Drogba who confirmed the news that most Chelsea fans had been hoping for. “He’s coming home,” wrote the former Ivory Coast striker at the weekend in a message on social media accompanied by nine blue love hearts.
Almost exactly a decade to the day since a fresh-faced teenager called Romelu Lukaku moved to Stamford Bridge for the first time for an initial £10m, the striker always tipped to follow in the footsteps of his boyhood idol is back in town after completing his transfer from Internazionale for almost 10 times that amount. It seemed inevitable that Lukaku – who has cost a record £289m in cumulative transfer fees – would one day return to the club he has described as “my first love”, despite rejecting the chance under Antonio Conte in 2017, and this time it finally seems to make sense.
For a start, European champions Chelsea under Thomas Tuchel are very different from the team the then 18-year-old officially joined on 18 August 2011 after months of speculation about his future. Ariël Jacobs, who coached Lukaku at Anderlecht, told the Guardian in June that he had warned his protege about the struggles he would face in forcing his way into a star-studded attack under André Villas-Boas that featured Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge. “I understood that he was in love with Chelsea but he also had to face reality,” Jacobs recalled.
Lukaku failed to score in 12 appearances, including only three starts, in his debut season, and watched as the caretaker manager, Roberto Di Matteo, led the club to a first Champions League and won the FA Cup. He admitted he did not feel part of the celebrations.
“I don’t like people talking to me about the Champions League,” he said in an interview with De Standaard newspaper in Belgium. “It wasn’t me, but my team that won. When [Salomon] Kalou put the [FA] cup on my lap in the bus I asked him to take it away immediately. I didn’t want to touch it because, just as with the Champions League, I had no part in it at all. Chelsea really wanted me … and paid a lot for me but after a while I thought: ‘Are you just throwing money around?’”
Source:: The Guardian