That Chelsea FC have had a deficit at the centre-forward position wasn’t a secret even before Jose Mourinho arrived or before the transfer window was open. Chelsea were widely linked to all the elite forwards in the world such as Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani, but in reality, they never approached the selling club with an intent of signing their players. On the contrary, the manager moved swiftly to openly earmark Wayne Rooney as his primary target and thereby began a game of thrones with Manchester United.
Rooney Chase & Eto’o Capture
Chelsea made two official bids for Wayne Rooney in
the region of £20m and £25m, and a third bid was believed to be on its way but Manchester United couldn’t be persuaded to part ways with their prized, yet want-away striker. After the draw at Old Trafford, Mourinho gave Rooney a 48-hour deadline to force through a move that Chelsea were made to believe he desperately craved for, but that culminated in the player openly acknowledging the fans for their continued support. United believed that the sale of a player of the caliber of Rooney to their direct rival could prove to be disastrous, having seen Robin van Persie win them the league after his transfer from Arsenal, and rightly held on to him. Chelsea were forced to look elsewhere.
The West London club had a back-up in place and wasted no time in buying 32-year old Samuel Eto’o from the fire sale at Anzhi Makhachkala, wherein the player took a massive wage cut to facilitate his reunion with Mourinho. Eto’o came on a free transfer on a one year contract that will cost the club £7m in wages.
It was clear from the start that out of the strikers presently on the books at Chelsea, one will make way for the incoming player, whosoever that may be. This is because in the formation that Chelsea were expected to play, there wasn’t room for more than one centre-forward and the club won’t want to have a set of three players to compete for that solitary position. Out of the three players, Fernando Torres was an immovable asset, so to speak, courtesy of his weekly wages of £175,000. The Spaniard wasn’t going to take a pay-cut and no club in the right frame of mind was going to relieve Chelsea of this burden. Demba Ba, who was signed from Newcastle in January for £7m, had failed to make a meaningful impact at the club, leading upto the game against Aston Villa this season. It was believed he would be the one to make way for Eto’o. At least that seemed to be the case till about 3 hours prior to the transfer deadline. Ba was on his way to Arsenal on loan, with Everton also into the mix to sign the forward from Chelsea. It was then that the script turned on its head.
A Twist In The Plot
Chelsea changed their mind of letting Ba join Arsenal on loan, and the player Everton were after was not Ba after all; that player was the prodigiously talented 20-year old Belgian Romelu Lukaku. After establishing himself in the Premier League last season on loan at West Brom, Lukaku was set to remain at Chelsea this season. The player had expressed his desires to work towards establishing himself at Stamford Bridge and even Jose Mourinho had on gone on record to state that the player has a role to play in his squad this season. Reports of his loan move started gathering momentum with the deadline looming large, with Everton and West Brom colliding head on for securing his signature, as Chelsea fans watched in sheer bewilderment.
Eventually, Everton signed Lukaku on loan for the season by paying Chelsea in the tune of £3m, moments before the window slammed shut on September 2nd, 2013. Let us evaluate who won and who lost upon completion of this transfer.
“I was sitting in my hotel room in Brussels when the phone went to tell me I was going out on loan again. It was 7 pm, and that was the first I knew of it. There had not been a mention of it before then, but after speaking to my parents, I decided to take the plunge.
Samuel Eto’o signing for Chelsea didn’t influence my decision, because I was already behind Fernando Torres in the pecking order anyway.
I talked to the manager as well, and while what he said was confidential, it just underlined that he is the best coach I have worked with. Some beat about the bush, but he comes out straight and tells you what he thinks. As a player, that is what you want.
The important thing, at 20, is to be playing, and while West Brom was an option, Everton was a better one. There are a few things I need to improve in my game, and Everton’s footballing approach and possession play can be perfect for me. My movement and runs to the far post and near post could be better, and I have already had a good, long conversation with the manager Roberto Martinez about that.“
Ever since moving from Belgian, Lukaku hasn’t really had an opportunity to start week in, week out in the Premier League. Even during his immensely successful loan spell under Steve Clark at West Brom, he was primarily a super sub who was brought on later on in the second half to destroy the tiring opposition defenders – which he did effectively, scoring 17 goals in the process. Had he remained at Chelsea this season, although he would certainly have got his opportunities, they would have mostly been from the bench; apart from domestic cup competitions, where he’d have started in all likelihood. At Everton, he can potentially start every weekend, irrespective of the nature of opposition. For a 20-year old elite talent, nothing can be better than a starting role at a club which will be in contention for European places this season. In a World Cup year, he really couldn’t afford to while away his time on the bench, especially if you consider he has Christian Benteke competing for a starting role for Belgium next year.
His time at West Brom saw him hone his primary assets, his size and speed, and utilize them to devastating effect. He was able to beat a high defensive line using his pace and get the better of defenders otherwise using his sheer power and strength, thereby also improving his hold up play in the process. He is, however, yet to establish himself as a genuine aerial threat, a skillset that a player of his physical attributes must possess. Furthermore, his finishing and first touch are still a work in progress, which is natural for a player his age, and nothing can be better to eliminate these slight weaknesses then starting for a fine club on a weekly basis.
This is a very good move for Romelu Lukaku.
Jose Mourinho spoke of the transfer and clarified his position:
“It is important for Lukaku. We have Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba, and of course he would have had chances to play but another thing is to play basically every weekend. He had [possible] clubs, he had options and he made that decision, I have to respect that decision and hopefully it goes well for him and it goes well for everyone.”
Chelsea see Romelu Lukaku as the natural heir to Didier Drogba; a player who would lead the line for the club for the next decade. In order to secure the long-term future of the club, they decided to take a short term hit by allowing him to spend another season away from Stamford Bridge. In the short term i.e. this season, this is surely a hit as Lukaku would almost certainly been a dangerous option to have on the bench at all times, but this hit has been mitigated by the signing of Eto’o and the £3m that Everton are believed to be paying for his year-long services.
For a club of the stature of Chelsea, having 4 strikers competing for a solitary position isn’t unimaginable but in this scenario, one of the players would have genuinely struggled for time on the pitch. Demba Ba was clearly expendable because of his form and the fact that his move would have freed up one of the 17 non homegrown slots on the roster, but after his loan move failed to materialize, they couldn’t afford to let anything come in the way of Lukaku’s development. Some quick decisions were taken and he was sent to Merseyside.
Chelsea may come to regret the move if all three of their experienced strikers, Torres, Ba and Eto’o, fail to provide the goals, but they would be still pleased if Roberto Martinez is able to get the best out of Lukaku and even more so, if the weapon they have sent Everton’s way is able to take some points off Chelsea’s title rivals. Anyway, if things go horribly wrong at Chelsea, there would be an opportunity to right the wrong in January.
Roberto Martinez minced no words in his praise for Lukaku:
“Clearly, he knows the league inside-out and he is not going to need any time to settle into the squad because he knows Kevin Mirallas really well from the international setup. I just see him as someone who can come in straight away and hit the ground running – and you don’t get many players like that. As you can imagine, there were many clubs wanting Romelu but we are pleased that we managed to give him a challenge that he is looking forward to. You look at the player – he is only 20 and he can do anything. He is powerful, strong, direct with his running and a clinical finisher with his left and right feet. He can also assist and see a pass. It’s very difficult to see a weakness. He started to have a big role at 16 so he has been playing at a high level for a number of years. All we want is for him to fulfil his potential at Everton, enjoy his football and make sure that he has an outstanding World Cup campaign.”
Everton have had a really good transfer window, especially deadline day. They squeezed every penny out of Manchester United for
Fellaini, avoided paying the player £4m worth of bonuses because of his transfer request, hoodwinked West Brom by selling Victor Anichebe for £6m, signed James McCarthy for £13.5 (and not £15m that Wigan were hell bent on), managed to hold on to Leighton Baines and secured loan moves for Deufoleu, Barry and Lukaku. All in all, they significantly improved their squad but made a profit of £7.5m along the way. But, it is none other than Lukaku who’s being considered as the jewel in their crown.
Jelavic and Kone have failed to provide Everton with the goals that they are desperately craving and Lukaku can be the answer to their problems. With compatriot Mirallas and Deufoleu, amongst others, providing service to him, the towering Belgian can be the difference between an average season and an outstanding one for Everton.
On Deadline day, Chelsea fans were certainly upset to see the player leave again, as they believed his time had already come. When the disappointment subsided, they realized that they’d have been more upset had Lukaku remained at Stamford Bridge but received fewer opportunities than what he got last season at West Brom. Fans consider him to be one of their own; Lukaku is a boyhood Chelsea fan, who has idolized Drogba and dreamt of playing for Chelsea since a very young age. Deep down, they realize that he is only 20 and his time will come. This move is perhaps the final stepping stone in realizing that collective dream.
As far as Everton fans are concerned, they can’t wait to sing, “Lukaku, woah! Lukaku, woah! He comes from Stamford Bridge, he’s bigger than a fridge“, a song made famous by the West Brom fans last season, who absolutely adored the Belgian.