CHESTER, PA - JULY 25: Romelu Lukaku #18 of Chelsea handles the ball in the first hlaf against MLS All-Stars during the 2012 AT&T MLS All-Star Game at PPL Park on July 25, 2012 in Chester, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Drew Hallowell/Getty Images)
There are a few Lukaku quotes causing a stir around the internet today as the Belgian has spoken for the first time since sealing a loan move to West Bromwich Albion for the new season. Below are a few of the choice lines from the interview:
"I couldn't see myself staying at Chelsea. I sacrificed a year of my career with them and didn't want to put up with it any more. I decided in March I wanted to go out on loan, and told my agent to find me a club. I am relieved to have found a solution.
I lost my hunger for the game over the past year. I won't beat about the bush: my season at Chelsea went very badly. As regards getting minutes on the pitch, I wasted my time. Last season I was in the reserves alongside a young lad who'd barely turned 15 and I asked myself what I was doing there."
Source: Daily Star
So, isn't that interesting? Let's take this step by step: firstly, don't immediately buy into the sensationalist headlines that are adorning most media outlets, such as this one: "Lukaku lashes out". That's the papers trying to portray an image of Chelsea as this gigantic and vile behemoth of the footballing world that digests youngsters like Godzilla digested the skyscrapters of Manhattan, which as Kevin has pointed out, is a long way off the truth. If you take a look at the headline of this article, you'll see how easily these quotes can be painted in a different light. That's not to say that there aren't some jarring and valid criticisms of Chelsea in Lukaku's words. He's clearly not happy at his treatment last season, and as one of the most exciting talents in world football thanks to his unique blend of physical and technical attributes, he does have somewhat of a point.
That said, it does seem a little strange that at this point last season Lukaku supposedly turned down a loan deal offered by the club. Lukaku goes to great pains to establish that he wasn't happy about sitting on the bench, but if it is true that he did indeed turn down a loan, then he was a little foresighted in thinking he could oust Didier Drogba, Fernando Torres, Nicolas Anelka, Daniel Sturridge, and Salomon Kalou. I'd also point out to Romelu that, for all his ability, there really aren't many 18 year olds in the world capable of playing at a top-tier side on a regular basis. For him to expecting that would be the case at Chelsea seems to me like a gross misjudgement on his part. There's certainly a debate to be had about whether Lukaku got as much game time as he deserved last season, but all the same, Lukaku has his wish now, and will be able to prove what he can do hopefully on a regular basis in the Premiership.
The biggest reaction that's going to spark from these quotes is where fans are going to rally against Lukaku because he's seemingly having a go at the club. Let's not forget that Lukaku is, for his support of Chelsea, has a first priority towards becoming the best footballer he can be. What he did last year was not the best way for him to develop, and that was because of two reasons: 1) because Villas-Boas, for all his talents, has some weird ideas, and 2) because Di Matteo was more focused on rescuing the pitiful wreckage that was our season.
As Graham pointed out earlier in the summer, the best thing for a young footballer in his age bracket to do is to play games regularly, and that certainly wasn't the case last season. He's certainly got a point when he says that it was time to think about himself. Besides, criticizing the club doesn't mean you don't love and support it: we do our fair share of criticizing around here, and nobody would accuse any of us of not being Chelsea fans.
On a side note, it's interesting to see Lukaku made his desire for a move very early on in the window. Presumably, Chelsea knew they were going to need a new backup striker heading into the new season as early as June, and yet one still hasn't arrived at the halfway point of August.
Lukaku's being brutally honest here, whether we like it or not. I'd advise him on being a bit more controlled in regards to his comments to the media, as it's going to be very easy for the tabloids to spin this into another Chelsea controversy. Saying things like he's lost his passion for the game are over the top and not really needed, and cast him as unprofessional, even if that isn't the case.