If Romelu Lukaku does rejoin Chelsea, he will have a big point to prove on his return to English football.
And that is not merely about the price tag, as Jessie J once sang, but more the striker’s first spell at Stamford Bridge and how his spell at Manchester United ended badly.
The Blues have had a second offer for their former striker worth £85 million rejected by Inter Milan, according to reports in Italy.
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With the reigning European champions appearing keen on signing a consistent goal-getter and Harry Kane not on their shopping list currently, a higher offer for Lukaku is expected in the coming days.
Romelu Lukaku of FC Internazionale in action during the pre-season friendly match between FC Internazionale and FC Crotone at the club’s training ground Suning Training Center at Appiano Gentile
Image credit: Getty Images
The 28-year-old’s supporters may feel he has nothing to prove after winning Serie A with Inter last season where he bagged 24 goals and formed arguably the best strike partnership in Europe with Lautaro Martinez.
But his time at Chelsea was not filled with a lot of memorable moments on the pitch after being signed from Anderlecht in 2011.
He was only a teenager then but failed to score in 15 appearances and had that infamous penalty miss in the shootout defeat to Bayern Munich in the 2013 Super Cup, his last game for the club.
Jose Mourinho loaned him to Everton a few days later and after being evntually sold to the Toffees he was a consistent goalscorer in his three years there, scoring 87 times – although he never had the expectation to win trophies on Merseyside.
That pressure intensified when Mourinho, yes, him again, signed him for £75 million at United in 2017 where he was the centre forward tasked with helping the club try and win the Premier League again.
He had an impressive first season scoring 28 goals as United finished second in the table and lost in the FA Cup final.
But there was always a question mark among fans over his performances against title rivals and in the big knock out games; his goals tended to be against the smaller sides.
He was not the big-game player at United that Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the previous season or that Edinson Cavani has become.
In his second campaign when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the wheel mid-season, questions were raised over his fitness levels – not helped by the footage of him yawning on an exercise bike during training. He finished the campaign with 15 goals, again with few big-game performances in the league.
Romelu Lukaku of Belgium consoles Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal following the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Round of 16 match between Belgium and Portugal
Image credit: Getty Images
The exception came in the Champions League with a brace in the win over PSG in Paris – you know ,the game in 2019 where Rio Ferdinand famously rubbed his hands in glee, told the world that United were back and should give Ole a contract which has become the go-to meme ever since.
Lukaku was eventually sold to Inter where he thrived under Antonio Conte. He scored 34 goals in his first season as the club finished second in the league and were Europa League finalists, a game in which he scored with a penalty but also scored an own goal as his quest for a big trophy continued to elude him.
That changed last season when he recorded 32 goals in all competitions as Conte’s side walked it to the Scudetto, their first since under Mourinho in 2010.
Lukaku has also scored consistently for Belgium at Euro 2020 and in the last World Cup so looks a better player at the age of 28 than the younger version at Chelsea and at United.
Can he prove the doubters wrong if he rejoins the Blues? His track record in the past two seasons suggests he can although it was in a different league.
And United have still yet to win a trophy since he departed and appear to have not yet replaced his goalscoring prowess with Anthony Martial and Marcus Rashford continuing to be frustratingly inconsistent.
But if he gets off to a stuttering start at Chelsea, as Timo Werner and so many other forwards have at the club in the past decade, his previous spells in English football will no doubt be the talking point in the TV studios, radio phone-ins and on social media.
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