Go out on loan, gain some experience, and we’ll bring you back. That’s what they told Romelu Lukaku when he was loaned out from Chelsea to West Brom. A season has passed, and the Belgian wonderkind, who is already 20 year old, scored 17 goals, including a last-day hat-trick against Manchester United, which makes it quite interesting to see how his future unfolds.
On paper, Lukaku is better than what Chelsea have at the moment. Fernando Torres might have finished the season on a high, but he has scored 8 goals. Demba Ba has been a disappointment, scoring only 2 Premier League goals since arriving in January. Lukaku might not be the complete package just yet, but given the chance this season by Steve Clarke, he has shown he can be one of the more dangerous forwards in the Premier League.
It’s back to Chelsea, at least for a short while. Lukaku wants to play, and not fight for his place on a team that might be suited for him, but prefers loaning out its young talents and give up on some healthy squad competition. It seems to have worked wonders for another Belgian, Thibaut Courtois, who was voted as the best goalkeeper in Spain over the last couple of years. Just like Lukaku, Courtois wants a lineup place, something Chelsea can’t give him at the moment.
And while Courtois is blocked by Petr Cech, someone who is still playing quite well most of the time, Lukaku has outscored every Chelsea player from last season. And yet Chelsea probably prefer going after someone expensive and more “proven”, with more than one season of top-flight experience in England. Lukaku will eventually cost the team €20 million, but they’re still not completely sure he’s ready to become the target man for them.
So what’s next? Lukaku will have a say on his next team, and he wants someone who’ll play in Europe. Chelsea do prefer him playing in England, but that leaves a very limited option list – they won’t loan him to United, City or Arsenal, and probably prefer not handing him over to Tottenham. Swansea, who won the League Cup, might be the answer to their troubles, where Lukaku will try to fit in a system that’s very different from the one at West Brom, which very much fit his bruising, physical style.