COBHAM, ENGLAND - AUGUST 23: Romelu Lukaku poses for the camera during the Chelsea new signings of Oriol Romeu and Romelu Lukaku press conference on August 23, 2011 in Cobham, England. (Photo by Christopher Lee/Getty Images)
I watched the Champions League final with a friend. I say 'watched', but that isn't really right, nor is 'with'. I experienced the Champions League final near a friend. I screamed and cried and prayed my way through that game, and then we won. And I watched the celebrations on repeat for most of the rest of the night.
At one point I turned around and asked my friend if he'd seen Romelu Lukaku anywhere. The youth team was on the pitch celebrating, as were the suspended players and the never-used substitutes. But there wasn't much sign of an enormous Belgian teenager who realisitically should have been thrilled to pieces by his favourite club winning the European Cup.
But apparently, he was there, despite never touching the Cup itself, a trophy he refuses to touch since he did nothing to help earn it. According to the Belgian press, Lukaku was as emotional as anyone else, dancing on the pitch at the Allianz Arena following Chelsea's victory. In general, he's a very happy boy - with one notable exception:
k kon het niet geloven. Ik moest even nadenken. Is dit wel echt gebeurd? Europees kampioen... Mijn leven is veranderd en ik ben nog maar negentien. (plots) Maar er is één iemand die ik nooit zal vergeven voor wat hij me heeft aangedaan. De vorige trainer.
'Het is niet enkel dat. Het was ook de manier waarop hij tegen me sprak en met mij omging. Al van bij het begin. Dat was raar. Ik kan er niet tegen als je zo doet tegen mij. Ik kreeg ook geen uitleg. Op training zette hij me links of rechts vooraan. Ik was bij de oefenwedstrijdjes de wisselspeler met het shirtje om voortdurend van team te wisselen. Zo leerde ik echt niets bij!
-Source: Sport Wereld.
That's in Dutch, so let's run it through the Google translate machine...
I could not believe it. I had to think. Is this really happening? European champion ... My life has changed and I'm only nineteen. (Suddenly) But there is one person that I will never forgive for what he did to me: The previous coach.
It's not just [that he left me off the Champions League squad]. It was also the way he spoke to me and with me in mind. Right from the beginning. That was weird. I can not stand it when you do so to me. I received no explanation. On training he put me right or left front. I was at the practice contests the substitute with the shirt to constantly switch teams. I really learned nothing!
Some pretty damning words there from the 19-year-old. At this point, the Andre Villas-Boas story is a little bit past its due date, but it's still pretty interesting to hear the players themselves talking about it. I'm glad that the club made the decisions that they did - in retrospect I wouldn't have had this season any other way - but it could have been a less bumpy ride if not for some bizarre personnel decisions.
Fortunately, things have turned around for the team and Lukaku in recent months, and he seems to be very optimistic about his future. He has stressed the importance of playing in the preseason tour of the United States (the linked article confirms that compatriot Kevin de Bruyne will be there as well), and hopefully he can turn some heads before the season proper starts. As to whether he'll actually play with the Blues next season, he isn't quite sure yet:
We'll see what happens after preseason. The chances of [a loan are] fifty-fifty, I think.
I've love to see Lukaku go to a Premier League team that needs a striker and doesn't have a viable option there, but what I'd love even more is if he completely destroyed the opposition in preseason and forced his way into the first team picture. I may think I know what's best for his development, but all I really want from Lukaku - or any Chelsea player - is for them to kick some major ass.