Romelu Lukaku just wants to be free

Jan Kruger

...to join a Champions League club abroad, it seems.

The big Belgian forward has apparently had more to say after his recent, poorly-received interview about his Chelsea future. Unfortunately for we Chelsea fans who would prefer to see him stay at Stamford Bridge and prosper, it appears he's much more of the Kevin De Bruyne school of Chelsea Belgians than the Thibaut Courtois school.

"What I don’t want is to be loaned out.

"I am 21 and I have been loaned for the last two seasons. Thibaut Courtois was loaned for three seasons and will be without doubt the first-choice Chelsea goalkeeper.

"And Kevin De Bruyne has been transferred permanently to Wolfsburg. They are free in their heads - it is not my case. That would free me totally."

-Romelu Lukaku; source: Daily Mirror

Now, on the face of it, that's not too bad. I mean, it's just the standard "use me or lose me" argument that's as old as any in football. Sadly, though, it's coming from a player who really hasn't earned the right to use it with a club like Chelsea. Of course, the aforementioned Courtois has said similar things in the past year or so, but, in his case, he had plenty of justification, being one of the very best keepers in world football.

He's earned the right to ask to be No. 1 over Petr Cech, who is exceptional in his own right, of course. Lukaku, on the other hand, has spent the same three seasons in the Chelsea wilderness, scoring for fun off the West Bromwich Albion bench, and having a good, if somewhat unspectacular, season at Everton, respectively before being dropped for a 19-year-old at the World Cup for Belgium.

Of course, he's scored an awful lot of goals in the Premier League in his two seasons away, but he's yet to, because of a lack of opportunity as much as anything, be tested at the highest levels. As Demba Ba could attest, scoring freely with a mid-table side is no guarantee of goals in a Top Four side or in the Champions League.

On some level, Lukaku probably knows this, going on to say the following:

"I don’t know - there are several clubs that are interested," he said.

"I need to make a good decision to reach the absolute top so that I can score a goal like Higuain against us. It is a dream for every attacker.

"Higuain has evolved slowly into becoming a top player. I want to show what I can do and play in the Champions League with a big club.

"The decision will soon be taken. I have some ideas but we will have to see what is best for the clubs. I don’t want to negotiate before the clubs have come to an agreement."

-Romelu Lukaku; source: Daily Mirror

Again, on its face, that's all good stuff. Chelsea are a big club, in the Champions League, and in a position to offer him the chance he so desperately craves. That last quote, however, is pretty damning. He's as good as said goodbye to Chelsea, it seems. Of course, Diego Costa isn't yet officially a Chelsea player, but it's hard not to think he's a part of this decision.

Even though Costa would be the undisputed No. 1 forward, there will still be plenty of opportunity for a second striker to get solid minutes and show what he's made of. Romelu Lukaku would almost-certainly be that player, with just Fernando Torres and Demba Ba as competition for the role. Sadly, it seems Big Rom doesn't fancy fighting it out to earn a spot in the squad. Against Fernando Torres and Demba Ba.

That's a competition I think I'd have a chance at winning, horribly out of shape, injury-prone, and bad at football as I am. Alas, that doesn't appear to be good enough for the giant Belgian, who prefers, it seems, an easy chance at a lesser club to the chance to represent one of the biggest clubs in the world, and one he's loved since he was a boy.

All that said, maybe it's harsh to expect him to want to play second fiddle at this stage in his career, but I don't think it's too harsh. If you want a place in this Chelsea squad, you have to earn it over another player. Unlike his countrymen Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois, Lukaku has neither shown a willingness to fight for that place or the kind of indisputable excellence which almost mandates his inclusion.

Ultimately, I think the Lukaku dream at Chelsea is probably coming to a conclusion. He's currently got enough value to fund a move for a very-capable replacement who won't mind waiting for his day to come. Like Kevin De Bruyne, whose situation this very much now resembles, I suspect the combination of entitled attitude, lack of willingness to fight for a place, inability to shut up in front of a microphone, and potential for a tidy profit will prove irresistible for the club, and he'll be sold.

I'd love to say that I'll be sad if and when it comes to pass, but I probably won't be, as long as we actually buy that replacement. Until then, though, Big Rom is still a Chelsea player with plenty of potential and a solid crack at establishing himself in the squad waiting for him if he wants it. But only if he wants it.

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