Chelsea's new, improved Lukaku needs a trophy haul worthy of his talent
Romelu Lukaku knew only success before his first move to Chelsea in 2011.
He had been on the fast track to superstardom having made his Anderlecht first-team debut aged 16 and excelling throughout his time in the club’s prestigious academy system.
A Chelsea fan, as evidenced by recently surfaced footage of a young Lukaku at Stamford Bridge on a school trip, the teenage striker was all set to emulate his idol Didier Drogba.
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But he got lost amid the competition, with the likes of Nicolas Anelka and Fernando Torres ahead of him in the pecking order.
He went 10 league games without a goal, prompting loan moves to West Brom and Everton, before Chelsea decided to move on without him for good. He was sold to Everton and Diego Costa brought in from Atletico Madrid.
Lukaku has been on the ascent since then and has lived up to his teenage potential. He is a goal-setter as well as a goal scorer, and has always wanted to be a star player for Chelsea.
And with four goals in four games so far throughout his second spell, he looks like he is worth the £97.5 million ($135m) that the club paid to Inter for his services this summer.
Having sold him for £28 million ($39m), buying him back at around three times that price is perhaps an admission from Chelsea that they got it wrong by letting him leave in the first place.
They had tried before – when he ended up going to Manchester United – but finally the perfect move has come to fruition.
Even while at Man United, Lukaku had Chelsea in his thoughts, seeking out Mason Mount after facing his loan club Derby County in the Carabao Cup.
Even though Mount wanted to keep his Derby shirt, in case he never played away at United again, Lukaku convinced him to swap it.
The pair then swapped numbers and it showed that Lukaku had an eye on events in west London from afar.
His time at Old Trafford was difficult with Lukaku carrying a lot of the blame for the club’s poor showings in front of goal under Jose Mourinho but subsequent events have demonstrated that the problems at Old Trafford ran deeper than Lukaku.
The decision to join Inter was the right move at the right time, with Antonio Conte forcing Lukaku to up his game and, in the process, he has become a more complete and more all-round player.
As a youngster, he often thrived on the wing, meaning he has always had the ability to beat a player and cross, but his game has been taken to another level.
At Inter, he looked at what he could add to his game, learning to become a proper target man to link up with Lautaro Martinez better and utilise those physical gifts.
His goals against Arsenal and Zenit in particular have shown those improvements; his work with his back to goal, his build-up play and aerial ability have all come on leaps and bounds.
The Europa League defeat to Sevilla in 2020 hurt him deeply and he was determined to have a trophy on his record; he inspired Inter to their first Serie A title in 11 years, becoming the league’s MVP in the process.
He changed his diet, shedding weight through Inter's nutritionists. He examined his own mentality and worked on what he could do to become a leader and, more importantly, a winner.
His love for Inter was genuine, despite the negative reaction following his departure from the club, but moving to Chelsea will help him complete a personal mission.
And just as the move to Inter was the right move at the right time, so it was for Lukaku and Chelsea.
Now 28, Lukaku has a chance to change perceptions in England where he previously wasn't seen as world class, or a big-game player.
He finally managed to score for Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the last Premier League match with Aston Villa. That emotional outpouring for his first goal celebration was heartfelt.
There was genuine excitement in the dressing room when reports about Lukaku's imminent move back to Stamford Bridge surfaced.
It's not taken long for his impact to be felt and for those perceptions to change. He knows his own worth and is focusing on helping his team to win trophies.
“It’s the right move for me for the rest of my career because with a lot of maturity and experience you come back as a player that can hopefully add something to the team," Lukaku said at his first press conference.
"I have had many conversations with the coach. I know the players from way back and have some personal relationships. I am really happy to be here.
"I know I am in a position where I can score a lot of goals. But winning trophies, that sets you apart."
His status in the dressing room is huge, he is a speaker of seven languages and has quickly become a leader behind the scenes, and that hunger for winning endures.
Lukaku has been known to keep that analytical view of his game and team-mates have said that he stays later than most, working on adding extras to his game.
"He came with the right mentality, working and trying to help," Jorginho told reporters this week.
"So, I’m really happy for him as well because he works so hard during the training and he deserves every goal that’s coming, and a big impact is well deserved."
Lukaku and Chelsea together are good enough to finally fill his medal collection with the Premier League, Champions League and more.
At the peak of his powers, it’s what he deserves.