Chelsea Future for Romelu Lukaku at Stake After Injury?

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2014

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 23:  Romelu Lukaku of Everton celebrates scoring his team's third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Liverpool at Goodison Park on November 23, 2013 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Reports on the extent of Romelu Lukaku's ankle injury, suffered in Tuesday's Merseyside derby, are yet to be released; but if the reactions from Everton manager Roberto Martinez are anything to go by, it's not looking exceedingly positive for the Chelsea loanee.

The Belgian international has been terrific in his loan spells at West Bromwich Albion and Everton over the past 18 months—scoring 26 goals, with 13 assists, in 58 appearances for the English sides.

Striker of the future, or striker of our collective imaginations?
Striker of the future, or striker of our collective imaginations?Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images

Nonetheless, being under contract with Chelsea until 2016, a significant injury to the young goalscorer would certainly be vexing to the London side.

Purchased from RCS Anderlecht in 2011 for nearly £20 million (via BBC Sport), Lukaku hasn't been given a window to play meaningful, consistent minutes for Chelsea.

Being 20 years old in a squad of men, the Belgian's lack of opportunities makes sense; but a continual denial of his services could make him search elsewhere for a new home. 

"The Curious Case of Daniel Sturridge"
"The Curious Case of Daniel Sturridge"Michael Regan/Getty Images

Reviewing the plight and eventual exodus of former Blues forward Daniel Sturridge shows there could be a similar outcome in the offing if Lukaku isn't given a chance.

Chelsea loaned the English international Sturridge to Bolton Wanderers in 2011. After eight goals in 12 appearances he earned a place in the 2011-12 Chelsea side; playing 43 games and scoring 13 goals on the wing that campaign.

Still, after a carousel of managers in Stamford Bridge, the Englishman was sold to Anfield for £12 million in January of last year (via ESPN FC), as he wasn't playing in his preferred position of centre-forward.

Egg on face from a Chelsea perspective. As Sturridge has been noting short of prolific since his move—to the tune of 27 goals and eight assists in just 34 appearances for the Reds.

Residing Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho had nothing to do with the sale of Sturridge, so no blame should be laid at his feet for that bit of business; but the situation with Lukaku is up to the Portuguese. 

Belgium's World Cup chances are pretty good?
Belgium's World Cup chances are pretty good?Stanley Chou/Getty Images

After his gruesome-looking injury against Liverpool, the Belgian's short-term goal will be to get fit as soon as possible with Everton's hopes of Champions League football awaiting; but thinking long-term. His prospective Chelsea career could be decided this summer should he fail to regain his physical prowess in time.

The young striker will need the summer, in both the 2014 World Cup and Chelsea friendlies, to show Mourinho he's worthy enough to play, much less build a team around.

Not that Lukaku's spells at West Brom and Everton haven't confirmed this already, but the stage offered at the World Cup is something all of its own.

Should the Belgian international not be able to play before next season, and fails to impress the Chelsea boss—the likes of Everton and others will be scrounging for every penny they can muster to capture the 20 year-old's signature.

It's interesting, as Lukaku seems a stock Mourinho striker.

In the past we've seen Didier Drogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have unbridled success under the manager; in no way has the Belgian met the heights Drogba or Ibrahimovic enjoyed, but in terms of physique and playing style he looks cast from a similar mold as the former Mourinho men.

These two aren't the long-term solutions at Stamford Bridge.
These two aren't the long-term solutions at Stamford Bridge.Sang Tan/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

In the aim of getting younger, others players need phasing out—including the current striking options of Samuel Eto'o, Demba Ba and Fernando Torres.

The styles of the current Chelsea strike force are rather homogeneous. Nothing distinguishes one's game from the other that would constitute a major change in philosophy; the addition of Lukaku adds a whole new style of play to Chelsea's arsenal.

Whether or not Mourinho wants to implement, or even consider, alternative styles of play will be decided in the future. Lukaku’s health going into international play and summer friendlies is certainly a variable in that equation.

If he can’t play, his time as a Chelsea player may end up being a footnote in his career's biography. If he can play, and plays to the level we've seen, his Chelsea future will have no choice but to thrive.

*Update: BBC Sport has reported, Lukaku's injury is not as bad as first feared. He will reportedly be out for: "weeks, rather than months." Great news for the player, his club(s) and his country.

Aside: What if Mourinho's aim is to remove all players from the squad bought by Andre Villas-Boas? In a coded message to his former pupil saying: "This is my team, my Chelsea."

Mourinho has seven Villas-Boas acquisitions on loan (including Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois); and has already sold two (Juan Mata and Kevin De Bruyne).

This could be trolling at its most diabolical and extravagant level!

As there may be a possible theory in there somewhere—keep it locked if the “situation” develops.


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