Romelu Lukaku leaves Chelsea and returns back to Inter Milan after flopping at Stamford Bridge for a second time in his career. He must be hurting. He was adamant he would get it right in his second chance, but he has failed.
The Belgian international was never considered good enough for the Blues back in 2011 when he was just a young man and starting out in the game. He had arrived at the London club from Anderlecht where he scored 33 goals in 73 games but in his 10 appearances for Chelsea he did not find the back of the net. He was not even on the bench most of the time and unsurprisingly he was loaned out to West Brom where he regained confidence and proved what a devastating striker he can be by grabbing 17 goals in 35 games - and that too for a struggling side.
But his employers were still not impressed and allowed him to again go out on loan, this time to Everton. He again proved he can do the business in the Premier League by grabbing 15 goals in 35 appearances for the Toffees, who wasted no time in making his deal permanent. The Goodison Park faithful took to Lukaku immediately. Everton have always been known for their big, strong number 9’s from Dixie Dean, Graeme Sharp and more recently Duncan Ferguson. Lukaku was definitely in that mould and in his first season playing under Roberto Martinez – his current international manager – he fired Everton to a fifth placed finish. He would play a total of 110 games for Everton scoring 53 times. Man Utd made an offer for the then 27-year-old that Everton could not refuse. He would get 28 goals in 68 appearances for the Red Devils but was now carrying a lot of extra baggage and had begun to fade. The explosive pace was no more and his first touch would consistently let him down. The Old Trafford club decided to cash in while they could and his next stop was Inter Milan in Serie A.
The Italian league is known for its slower pace and Lukaku loved playing there. It gave him a new lease of life and in 72 games he plundered 47 goals to help Inter to the title. He had proved his doubters wrong and he was back in demand.
There was only going to be one club he would move to - Chelsea. He had unfinished business there and the London club broke their transfer record by re-signing him for a whopping £97.5 million. Now an older and wiser figure, many felt he would be a hit the second time around. But under Thomas Tuchel and a brand new style of football that he was not used to playing, Lukaku again began to struggle. The pace of the Premier League was also just too much for the big man and it didn’t help matters when he fell out with his German coach. His touch, once again, let him down badly and he was soon dropped to the bench and out of favour. His career had again taken a nose dive, ironically once again with Chelsea. In all competitions, he managed just 15 goals in 44 games. Not good enough.
But now he has left them again and returns to Inter for a season long loan where he will no doubt prove to be a handful. He was so desperate for the move that he even agreed a huge pay cut. He has been a massive flop for a second time but he isn’t the first striker to fail there. Incredibly, Chelsea have spent nearly £450 million on 13 different strikers since Didier Drogba left in 2012. He was the last centre forward to really make an impact, getting 100 goals in 226 games. Nicolas Anelka and Diego Costa were relative successes but the curse of the number 9 shirt has struck several high profile strikers at the club in the past.
Tried but failed
Chris Sutton was a big arrival from Blackburn back in 1999 for a then massive £10 million. He had won the title with the Lancashire club and a lot was expected from the Englishman but he only got 3 goals in 39 games. Mateja Kezman was another striker with a hot reputation who failed to shine. The Serbian forward would score only 4 goals in 25 appearances. And then came an odd move by the club who were clearly desperate to break the curse – they signed midfielder Steve Sidwell from Reading and handed him the number 9 jersey! Yes, that’s right. A centre midfielder wearing number 9! It didn’t work out either, as in his 25 games he scored just once. Then in 2011 came Spain legend Fernando Torres who during his four years at Liverpool scored 81 goals in 142 games. Much was expected but even he flopped. 45 strikes in 172 games was not good enough although Blues fans say his goal against Barcelona to seal a spot in the 2012 Champions League final was worth every penny of his £50 million transfer fee.
Radamel Falcao, Alvaro Morata, and even Gonzalo Higuain have worn that jersey and failed to deliver. Lukaku is its latest victim and whoever Chelsea brings in next, it’s safe to say he will want any other number but 9…