Lukaku stirs up some controversy

Michael Steele

Today the footballverse is abuzz with a series of quotes from on-loan Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku in which he appears to criticise the club and manager Jose Mourinho for sending him on loan to Everton. Here're the quotes from the Mail via Belgian outlet Nieuwsblad:

I couldn't do much about it. The coach made his choice, and, as a player, you have to respect it. I went along with it, and it is now up to me to prove he was wrong.

It has been two years in a row now, and it does make you question things and wonder why. But that's life. You just have to get on with it. The only thing I can do is play well and score as many goals as I can, and then maybe people will notice what I am about.

Everyone has their own opinion on things. I can only underline my case by scoring more goals than all the strikers currently at Chelsea, and that is what I will be striving to do this season.

I hope my goals will help Everton finish higher than Chelsea. I am at Everton for the season, and I want to do as well as I possibly can for them. I also hope Jose Mourinho and I are both at Chelsea for a long time, because I want the best for Chelsea and I know he is a good coach.

I think he makes his decisions in good conscience and with the intention of doing the best he can for the club. That's done now, and I can only concentrate on doing well at Everton.

...

[M]y goal has not changed. I want to succeed at Chelsea.

Considering that Lukaku has said repeatedly that he chose to leave Chelsea on loan (see the extensive quotes here, for example), it's not entirely clear which decision he's disagreeing with Mourinho about. I see two real possibilities here. The first is that Lukaku is silly enough not to realise that what he says in Belgium will be reported in the UK, and is spinning different stories in different countries. That would surprise me, because he's basically diligence personified, and there's no reason to assume he's that stupid.

The second is that Lukaku disagrees with Mourinho's decision not to install him as the number one centre forward at the start of the season, which strikes me as more reasonable. That decision led to Lukaku leaving for Everton to get more playing time ahead of a World Cup year, and is fair enough -- I disagree with Mourinho too.

The soundbytes that will draw the most attention are the rather over-the-top ones in which Lukaku says he wants to help Everton finish higher than Chelsea, which will undoubtedly annoy some Blues supporters, but the truth of the matter is that although he's still owned by the club I would hope and expect a professional footballer to be playing for his current team and supporters.

In the short term, he should be focusing on Everton, although perhaps being less gung-ho about it would be in order. In the long term, his priorities lie with Chelsea, and he's using his time at Goodison Park to become a better footballer than he would have been in the Blues' striker rotation. Seems alright to me.

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