Did this decision cost Chelsea the title?

At the time, Jose Mourinho’s decision to loan Romelu Lukaku to Everton was a baffling Deadline Day development. As the season draws to a close, it still remains a mystery to many why the “Special One” sanctioned the twenty year old’s temporary move.

Speculative though it may be, did this decision ultimately cost Chelsea the Premier League title?

With one game remaining, Chelsea sit just four points off the summit and will likely finish the season in third place. Despite Mourinho’s insistence that his side were nothing more than “little horses” in the title race, the Londoners remained in the thick of the mix right up until last weekend’s disappointing home draw to Norwich City.

In a frustrating turn of events, Chelsea haven’t fallen short due to their results against their rivals. Mourinho’s side have earned an impressive sixteen points from a possible eighteen in their encounters with Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal. The much maligned”park the bus”  has proven ruthlessly effective.

Rather, it has been slip-ups against the “lesser” sides which have arguably cost the club a potential third Premier League crown under the “Special One”. 0-1 at Aston Villa, 0-1 at Crystal Palace, 1-1 at West Brom and a pair of 0-0 draws at home to Norwich and West Ham have ultimately derailed Chelsea’s title challenge.

In the aforementioned results, the Blues’ have been criticised for lacking a cutting edge. Time and time again, Mourinho has publicly expressed his frustration with the strikers at his disposal. Demba Ba, Samuel Eto’o and Fernando Torres have all incurred the Chelsea manager’s wrath on numerous occasions throughout the season.

Isn’t it ironic then that whilst Mourinho bemoans the lack of a “killer instinct” in his side, Lukaku has enjoyed a second consecutive prolific loan stint in the Premier League? The Belgian has followed his seventeen goal haul from his spell at West Brom with a further fourteen this season at Goodison Park. Alongside a number of other stand-out performers, Lukaku has played a crucial role in firing Everton into fifth place this season.

In comparison, Ba, Eto’o and Torres have managed just eighteen league strikes between the three of them. Mourinho has constantly rotated between the trio and seemingly failed to settle on a preferred option, with various rumours suggesting the manager is ready to dispense with the services with all three in the summer.

Ian Bolland on Here is the City points to a minutes per goal comparison between Lukaku and the current Chelsea strikers to suggest that the Chelsea manager was right to loan out the twenty year old. Published back in mid-April, the loanee’s ratio of scoring once every 165 minutes lags behind Eto’o and Ba respectively on 154 and 114 respectively.

But with the greatest of respect to Everton, imagine how many more Lukaku would be able to notch with the creativity of Eden Hazard and Oscar behind him?

Although it is a question that can never truly be answered, it doesn’t seem illogical to suggest that Lukaku’s loan could have ultimately cost Chelsea the title. The Blues’ title challenge wilted due to a lack of a “killer instinct” and the Belgian has proven in two consecutive loan spells that he possesses the required cutting edge. With Mourinho frequently castigating the trio currently at his disposal, it wouldn’t be surprising if the manager even privately agreed with this sentiment, not that he would ever admit it publicly.

Despite all of this though, the rumours emanating from Stamford Bridge seem to suggest that the Chelsea manager is surprisingly willing to let Lukaku leave in the summer. There is speculation that Tottenham have already opened talks over a potential £15 million transfer and there will surely be no shortage of suitors for the Belgian’s services. Roberto Martinez has recently claimed the striker is “capable of anything” and has not hidden his desire to make the loan permanent.

With Diego Costa believed to be the subject of heavy interest for Chelsea, Lukaku’s agent Christophe Henrotay has recently admitted that they’re waiting to hear Mourinho’s plan for next season before making any decisions on the striker’s future. Talks of a rift between the manager and player have been downplayed by both parties but speculation continues to mount that the Belgian will be offloaded.

With Chelsea falling agonisingly short in their pursuit of the Premier League crown, fans will likely be ruing Mourinho’s decision to loan out Lukaku. Whatever happens in the summer, the Belgian could have proven the difference at Stamford Bridge this season.