By Greg Stobart and Wayne Veysey
Chelsea have emerged as strong favourites to sign Romelu Lukaku after Tottenham were told that he has already agreed to join the Premier League champions, Goal.com UK can reveal.
Spurs were rumoured to be the English club that had a £17.5 million bid rejected by the Belgian teenager’s club, Anderlecht, during the summer. Anderlecht have not disclosed the identity of the club who made that offer but one source denied that it was Tottenham.
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However, sources close to Lukaku insist he is still keeping his options open and that he will remain with Anderlecht until the end of this season, when he will have turned 18 and finished his schooling. The teenager has a release clause in his contract that will be triggered in 2012.
“He will make his decision at the end of the season and not before,” Lukaku’s agent Christophe Henrotay told Goal.com UK. “Before then, nothing will happen. He has to play well and give 100 per cent to Anderlecht. After that, we will see.”
The next Drogba | Romelu Lukaku wants to join his idol at Stamford BridgeMost of the leading clubs around Europe are closely monitoring the situation, with Manchester United, Arsenal, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich among those in the running.
Madrid manager Jose Mourinho has openly admitted his admiration for a player who has continually broken records since making his Anderlecht debut last year. The 6ft 3in forward, who specialises as a lone central striker, became the youngest ever top socrer in Belgium last season with 15 League goals, and his 58 appearances in all competitions since breaking into the first team have yielded 25 goals.
During a recent interview, Mourinho made a point of praising Lukaku’s father Roger, a former professional footballer. “It is true we wanted Romelu, but he has a very clever dad,” said Mourinho. “He wants Romelu to stay at Anderlecht for one more year. I wish all dads were like this.”
Chelsea have been monitoring Lukaku since he was 15 and have had a head-start on their rivals ever since the player was photographed at Stamford Bridge in a Chelsea shirt earlier this year when he went to the stadium as part of a school trip. Drogba is on record as saying he has phoned the youngster and urged him to sign for Chelsea.
The Belgian, who hails from the Flemish-speaking area of Antwerp and also speaks French, is learning English and Spanish at school. The source says he already has good command of conversational English.
Those who know him well speak of a teenager with ‘unique’ qualities, including not only a startling physical maturity but also a willingness to listen and learn.
Although Roman Abramovich has tightened the purse strings in recent years, Chelsea have shown that they are willing to pay significant fees for talented players with re-sale value. Brazilian midfielder Ramires was signed for £18m in the summer and the Double winners also came close to clinching a deal for his countryman Neymar for around the same fee.