28-year-old Belgian Romelu Lukaku is underrated, and that’s a fact. Romelu has built a reputation as a reliable goalscorer in the world’s best leagues: yet he has been shoved to the side countless times throughout his career.
Lukaku first appeared on the big stage in the 2011-12 season for Chelsea as a reserve player, getting his first career start late in the season against Blackburn Rovers— a game he won Man of the Match in. Still, Lukaku returned to the bench and voiced his frustration with his lack of involvement in the campaign.
Next season, Lukaku was sent on loan to West Bromwich Albion to get extra playing time and a year to develop in the Premier League; he bagged 17 goals and seven assists in 35 Premier League appearances, scoring more times than Chelsea’s leader, Frank Lampard.
In spite of his tremendous production at West Brom, the young Lukaku was yet again sent out on loan in the following season, this time to Everton. He produced a nearly identical stat-line, scoring 15 goals and providing eight assists in 33 appearances for the Blues. This was a better return than Eden Hazard’s 14 goals for Chelsea, yet he still had not managed to win over his parent club.
Chelsea decided that there was no place for Lukaku in their squad, deeming him too burly and out of control on the ball. They agreed to a deal for $38.9-million to make Lukaku’s spell at Everton permanent. He went on to score 28 goals in two years at the club before again being shipped out to another English club, this time for $93.17-million to Manchester United.
Lukaku Underappreciated in Manchester United
Expectations for Lukaku had never been higher than they were after his big-money move in 2017, as Red Devils fans thought they had found a new talisman to replace an aging Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Lukaku scored 16 goals in his introductory season in Manchester but received a bevy of criticism for finishing in second place, 19 points behind Manchester City. Man U fans felt that Lukaku’s price tag obligated him to lead them to a Premier League title, even though he had been productive.
The big Belgian continued to receive extreme criticism as Man U dropped two of their three opening games for the first time in 26 years, including a 3-0 defeat to Tottenham at Old Trafford. Lukaku and then-manager Jose Mourinho became easy targets as the players with the biggest names at the club and were consistently attacked by fans and members of the media.
Man U finished its campaign in sixth place, barely qualifying for the Europa League, and Lukaku was sold to Italian club Inter Milan for $81.4-million. This was his first move outside of England since he was a youth, and the change in scenery paid dividends.
Romelu Lukaku is Underrated | It’s a Fact
In his two years in Italy, Lukaku has scored 47 league goals and provided 12 assists; Inter Milan won the league for the first time in 10 years this season, and Lukaku won Serie A MVP for his performances.
Lukaku credited his first title-winning season to his boss, Antonio Conte, in a message on Instagram after Conte departed from the club in the offseason.
“I will keep your principles for the rest of my career,” said Lukaku. “Thank you for all what you did. I owe you a lot.”
With his domestic competitions behind him, Lukaku is now leading the line for Belgium at the 2020 European Championship. He has scored three goals in as many games, bringing his international total to 63 in 96 games— this is the most in Belgium’s history, and he still has many years left in his career.
Belgium has also qualified for the knockout stage with nine points in three games and is one of the odds-on favorites to win the whole tournament. This would not only be Lukaku’s first international triumph but the first in Belgium’s history.
Lukaku has been turned away many times in his career, and he is finally receiving the appreciation that he deserves for his incredible talent. He is one of the most prolific strikers in the world and is set to take the mantle from Robert Lewandowski as the world’s best soon.
Grant Mitchell is a sportswriter and multimedia contributor for the Sports 2.0 Network dealing with basketball, football, soccer, and other major sports: you can connect with him on Twitter @milemitchell to stay up to date with the latest sports news and to engage personally with him.