As good as Romelu Lukaku has been over the past two seasons with West Brom and Everton, the Chelsea striker hasn’t really been tested at the highest level of club football.
The Belgium international clearly doesn’t have a future at Stamford Bridge. As good as he could be for the club, alternating with Diego Costa, a U-turn just doesn’t seem to be on the cards at any stage this summer.
Atletico Madrid are the most recent club to sound out their interest in the player, with Lukaku said to be heading to the Vicente Calderon on another season-long loan. In one way it would suit Lukaku to experience football in one of Europe’s other top leagues, but you also have to wonder how much good it will be for him to continue to have uncertainty in his future, with Chelsea only loaning him out rather than cutting ties for good.
There’s a relationship there between both clubs, obviously, with Costa said to be the first of at least three Atletico players set to move to west London, and also the sustained dialogue over the past three years over Thibaut Courtois. It makes a lot of sense for Chelsea to entrust Lukaku to the Spanish champions.
And there won’t be many better coaches to further aid in the 21-year-old’s development. Diego Simeone has a ruthless winning attitude, whose diligence alone has played a significant part in the club’s success over the past two years. But the Argentine is also a magnificent coach and man manager, bringing the very best out of a large number of Atletico’s players, including Costa.
What is clear about Lukaku is that he needs the trust of a manager and he needs to be playing regularly. Neither of those are present at Stamford Bridge under Jose Mourinho.
But what is also important for the player is that he takes the next step in adjusting to life in the Champions League. As of now, the only two clubs in the Premier League who are said to hold an interest in the player, Tottenham and Everton, can’t offer him top European football. He was below-par in the group stages of the World Cup with Belgium, while there is also some doubt as to whether he’s good enough (at this stage of his career) to be the first-choice striker of a Premier League side competing for the league title.
But the Belgian has stated his desire to join a club who will be winning titles. And it’s not a cheap shot at either Premier League side, but simply Atletico have been on an outstanding winning run over the past few seasons and it may not be about to end just yet, even with the impending losses of key players.
For Lukaku as a player and without thought of silverware in the near future, Simeone will make him a better player than he currently is.
Atletico are sure to be priced out of a permanent move for the player, and Chelsea’s recent history at the sale’s table dictates they’re not about to let Lukaku go on the cheap. But whatever the outcome this summer, Atletico and life in Spanish football would be the ideal next move for the striker at this point of his career.