Romelu Lukaku left Chelsea in 2013 as a striker with top class potential.
Romelu Lukaku returns to Chelsea in 2021 as a striker with top class potential realized.
And in the wake of Tammy Abraham’s departure, Lukaku’s taken the No.9 shirt and all the great expectations and big responsibilities that come with it.
Introducing your new number...— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 18, 2021
Lukaku is in little need of introduction.
He already knows the Chelsea training ground, he already knows many of the staff and the players. And we of course know him as well, or at least some earlier version of him.
Either way, Lukaku’s homecoming has been nothing but wholesome good vibes, and now he’s only looking to back all that with performances on the pitch.
"It was good to be back, obviously. It doesn't feel new because a lot of the players I knew from before; I already have relationships with most of them. I am really happy to be here and it's up to us now to play as a team and keep winning going forward.
"It's a good feeling. The guys are very hungry and they want to keep winning. I've been training since yesterday and I could see there was good intensity, the coach is very clear with his ideas, everyone wants to work hard to keep improving and, most importantly, win. Those things really fit in with my ambitions. In the end, we all have to prove ourselves on the pitch.
"The dream is a reality now so I have to prove myself on the pitch. Now I'm here, it's time to get to work and let my performances do the talking."
Having scored more than a century of goals (113) in 217 Premier League appearances before leaving in 2019, Lukaku was already a “proven” striker at this level, even if his overall game drew heavy criticism during his poor patch at Manchester United.
Two years on, with the help of Antonio Conte's top notch tactical coaching, Lukaku emerged as a top five all-round striker in the world, with a wide array of skills that fit into any system under any manager, which compelled Chelsea to break our transfer record.
And Lukaku has grown and developed not just on the pitch, but off of it as well.
"Maturity has been important. I think I've learned much more about myself, setting higher standards for myself. As a player, it's been about becoming more complete as the game in Italy is more different.
"The spaces are tighter, it's more technical and tactical, and that helped me a lot. The English game is different but for me, it's not something new. So it's a case of getting back here and adapting to my teammates and whatever game plan the coach has to help the team."
Lukaku's addition to the team should raise the game of his fellow attackers as well, while giving the team even greater tactical flexibility and chutzpah.
Thomas Tuchel has already hinted at using a two-striker formation, where a support striker could play off Lukaku while willing runners like Mount or Havertz would enjoy the space created by Lukaku occupying a couple of defenders and laying off simple passes.
However, communication and chemistry will be key for such partnerships to flourish, so that's what Lukaku is hoping to build quickly.
"For me, it is about communication. I am a guy who is very open-minded. I always ask my teammates questions about what they want, what they expect from me, where I can help them, where would I like the ball.
"I think the next couple of weeks are very important for me to communicate to the players around me and to be open with the mindset that we have a certain playing style. For me, it isn't too much to adapt to because we play the same system in the Belgium national team.
"That's already a good thing but at the end of the day it is about communicating, knowing their characteristics and what they like and I will adapt to find a way to help the team."
The 28-year-old’s impact should also be great in that invaluable intangible department that is leadership, which often proves to be the difference between title-winners and also-rans. Chelsea's Old Guard left a big void that’s still being felt, but gradually it’s being filled with the likes of César Azpilicueta, Jorginho, Thiago Silva, and all the Academy boys who bring with them a winning mentality that they’ve been observing all their lives.
Lukaku adds a huge dollop as well, as an elder statesman of the attacking group, with a big personality and big ambitions.
"In terms of being a leader, Azpi is the captain and has been here for many years and he’s a great captain. When I was in quarantine he was already messaging me about finding a house and stuff. It was like I was never gone.
"The relationship is still intact and also with the rest of the boys. Leader? There are many big personalities in this dressing room. I am a player that likes to connect with everybody and likes to make everybody feel comfortable around me and give them confidence.
"Those players in the dressing room are worthy of being Chelsea players and they showed it last season so this dressing room has a lot of personality, which I like. It is good to be back. As a footballer, you fight to achieve your dreams. I’m here now can’t wait to be on the pitch and perform with my teammates."
- Romelu Lukaku; source: Football.london
One gets the feeling Lukaku is itching to translate these words to meaningful actions.
Arsenal on Sunday can't come soon enough!