The war of words between manager and player started when the big Belgian told the BBC in rather nonchalance that Chelsea hadn’t been in touch with him since the summer, despite a rich vein of goalscoring form for his adoptive club that’s seen Lukaku claim eight goals in eight starts for the Toffees.
Four days ago, Mourinho responded in an irritated fashion, rebutting to reporters; ” Romelu is a young boy who likes to speak. The only thing he didn’t say is why he went to Everton on loan. That’s the only thing he never says. My last contact with him was to tell him exactly that. Why do you never say why you are not here?
“And that’s what I’m telling him now: “Tell the country why you left.” When you enjoy to speak, speak everything. Don’t speak only half of it. Speak everything. It’s a simple question: Why did you leave Chelsea? Ask him.”
Without the requirement for explicit explanation, it’s safe to assume that the highly-rated 20 year-old had doubts over the amount of first team football he’d be getting at Stamford Bridge, and rather than spending the year performing the kind of cameo service Demba Ba is currently providing for the Blues, he saw it better for his career to get another season of regular action under his belt and maintain momentum, following a campaign in which he netted 17 times on loan at West Brom.
No one can argue with that, not even Mourinho. Some have even alleged that the Special One’s Machiavellian mastery helped conjure up a plan in which agent Lukaku will be scoring week-in-week-out for Everton against Chelsea’s divisional rivals, to the Blues’ obvious benefit.
But the Portuguese’s recent outburst suggests he’s in no mood for mind games on the issue, considering it was apparently Lukaku’s decision to leave after all, when the West Londoners could have just as easily offloaded Demba Ba instead. As much as it’s about honesty and the Chelsea boss asserting his authority, it’s also about keeping a high-in-confidence youngster’s feet on the ground and not letting recent successes to go to his flamboyantly-haired head.
However, there is the alternative explanation, that Mourinho is trying to deflect attentions away from the fact a 20 year-old deemed not mature enough for a spot in the Chelsea first team has recorded an eight-goal haul in the Premier League that doubles the total of the Blues’ entire forward cast, all of whom are probably earning salaries that triple or even quadruple the Belgium international’s.
Don’t get me wrong, not having Lukaku at Stamford Bridge this season has hardly held the West Londoners back; they’re currently in second place in the English table and only four points behind league leaders Arsenal.
Furthermore, for what Chelsea’s strike force have lacked in lethality, other areas of the squad have decisively made up for. 12 separate players have found the scoresheet for the Blues in the Premier League this season, including John Obi Mikel – that’s nearly double the amount than at Manchester City and Manchester United, and one more than the Gunners. Overall, Chelsea have scored the fourth most goals of any Premier League team this season.
But if there’s one missing ingredient that could eventually cost Mourinho’s men in their title this year, it’s that ever-dependable centre-forward that Chelsea have continually lacked since Didier Drogba left Stamford Bridge in 2012. Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o have all proved their utility to the Blues cause, but none have quite managed to fill the goalscoring void.
And although concerns about Lukaku’s lack of maturity are certainly understandable, perhaps best portrayed by his penalty miss against Bayern Munich in the European Super Cup and the fact he’s never actually scored a Premier League goal for his parent club, you have to wonder if things would be different this season had Mourinho given the youngster a clearer chance in the first team before forcing him into a personal ultimatum regarding where he’d ply his trade for the next 12 months.
Additionally, one must consider whether the decision to let Lukaku leave still justifies as an error on Mourinho’s part, bearing in mind he did little to to stand in the striker’s way.
Before Everton swooped in on deadline day, the Belgium international came off the bench for his parent club against Hull and Aston Villa with little effect. But then came an early heavyweight clash with Manchester United. Lukaku took up his customary spot on the bench once again, but was never brought on by the Chelsea boss, despite the fact he’d bullied Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand relentlessly when taking on the Red Devils at the end of last season, claiming an incredible 45-minute hat-trick in the process. That’s the kind of talismanic service Lukaku could and quite clearly wants to be providing the Blues this year.
And considering the mechanical and physical style Mourinho has insisted upon his Chelsea side this season, it’s hard to think of a better candidate to lead the line for the Blues than a 6 foot 3 powerhouse who found the net 17 times last term and looks set to trump that record this year. Furthermore, his wide frame, high work-rate and combative nature would surely adhere to servicing Chelsea’s midfield as a pillar to launch attacks from, currently being the Blues’ most consistent department in terms of goalscoring.
He’s also in incredible form compared to Chelsea’s current forward cast, averaging a Premier League goal every 106 minutes of play in 2013, whilst Fernando Torres has netted every 630 minutes, Demba Ba every 522 minutes and Samuel Eto’o every 221 minutes.
Bearing that in mind, should Mourinho really have let Lukaku leave, considering the kind of service he could have provided for Chelsea this season, and the fact that he must be blooded in to the Blues first team at some point or he’ll never have a proper career at Stamford Bridge.
Today, the Chelsea boss has quipped, regarding comments from Lukaku suggesting he could spend another year at Goodison; “Maybe there is a new rule in football where when the season finishes every player is able to decide their own future.”
As much as Mourinho is trying to once again assert his authority over the issue, it also subtly hints at the fact he won’t be able to ignore the beastly Belgian’s hot form if it’s maintained until the end of May, potentially making it two years in a row he’s thoroughly outshone Chelsea’s entire strikeforce single-handedly.
Perhaps that’s why Mourinho has been so quick to criticise a young player that’s quite frankly causing him a fair bit of embarrassment through his goal scoring this season, in an attempt to defect from growing accusations that Chelsea would be a much stronger outfit with Lukaku than without him right now.