Romelu Lukaku defined his first season at Chelsea as “terrible.” Still, he believes the experience helped him grow as a player and believes the timing of his return to Stamford Bridge could not be better.
The Belgium striker joined the Blues from Anderlecht as a youngster in 2011 but only played 159 Premier League minutes in his debut season before loans to West Brom and Everton in the next two seasons, finally joining the latter permanently in 2014.
Lukaku spent three more years on Merseyside before moving to Manchester United and Inter, before returning to Chelsea this season.
So far this season, he has four goals in all competitions, at least twice as much as any other teammate, on a team-high 25 shots. Marcos Alonso, a left-back, is next on the list, with 17.
Lukaku has underperformed his projected goals total of 4.15, but he has delivered more than just goals, generating 15 opportunities — this time trailing leader Alonso (18).
The 28-year-old feels that his time in London was crucial to his growth.
“[My first time at Chelsea] was both terrible and beneficial, but I would argue that it was more beneficial because it provided me with the mentality and mindset that I needed to become the player I am today,” Lukaku stated.
“The squad was excellent, but no one noticed the extra effort they performed after the training sessions.” Every day, as an 18-year-old, I observed firsthand how hard the athletes worked on their profession.
“It’s when I realized you have to do that to become this sort of player.” “I told myself, ‘When I’m not playing, this is what I’m going to do,’ and it quickly became a way of life.”
Lukaku is no longer the raw youngster who came to England ten years ago; he is now a seasoned, world-class center-forward who was a crucial member of Inter’s Serie A title-winning team last season, scoring every 120 minutes in the league.
In 2017, he was linked with a move back to Stamford Bridge from Everton but instead joined United as Chelsea acquired Alvaro Morata. However, Lukaku is confident that the timing of this transfer is ideal.
“I knew I’d grow as a player, so it was only a matter of timing,” Lukaku explained. “I had two chances to return, in 2016 and 2017, but it didn’t work out for a variety of reasons.”
“In the end, it happened because it’s the perfect moment, the right age, the team is performing well, and everything is in place for it to succeed.”
“I’m a lot calmer now.” With parenthood, I’ve grown and become more laid-back. That helped me a lot after winning in Italy and understanding what it takes to get there. I’ve been able to develop something that I can continue to work on for the remainder of my career in the previous three years.
“It might be difficult, but if you set your mind to do something and devote everything you have to that goal, you can do it.” I recognized my characteristics and talent, but I also understood what I was not good at, and I worked hard to improve those aspects to be the entire package.
“It feels nice now. I’m thrilled with the chance, and we’ve gotten off to a great start as a group. My teammates have made my life extremely simple, and the coach is doing an excellent job. Our results have been fantastic, but we’re always searching for new challenges.”