Everton striker Romelu Lukaku has described former employers Chelsea as the club he "always wanted" to play for, leaving the door open to a potential return one day. Elsewhere, the Blues will have to fight Barcelona if they want Scottish prodigy Billy Gilmour.
In an interview with French television channel SFR Sport (h/t Sport Witness’ Tom Coast), Lukaku emphasised his adoration for Chelsea, whom he left in 2014, while reiterating playing time was his reason for departing:
[Chelsea] was the club I’d always wanted to play for. When I came back the second season, I thought I’d have a chance, but as I said, the manager is allowed to make his choices, and it’s up to us, the players, to show him he’s wrong.
I waited three games, but I immediately felt the situation wouldn’t change, and since there was the World Cup in Brazil, I didn’t want to miss it, and that’s why I left.
It’s difficult to make those kinds of emotions disappear, and even though the 23-year-old has benefited immensely from his permanent switch to Everton, there lies a question as to whether Lukaku envisions a Chelsea return.
The Belgium international was linked with a Stamford Bridge reunion over the summer, a move that never materialised, but Chelsea manager Antonio Conte informed the press on Friday he didn’t regret the miss:
Asked about not signing Romelu Lukaku, Conte says he prefers to talk about his players and sees a complete player in Diego Costa. #CFC
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) November 4, 2016
Lukaku has flourished in his enhanced first-team responsibilities with the Toffees, scoring 16 goals for the club while on loan in 2013-14, gradually increasing his figures season-by-season, including 25 in all competitions last term.
The striker is on course to best that number again this season and currently sits among a heady mix of elite Premier League competition in the top-scorer list, including in-form Chelsea frontman Diego Costa:
#PL Top Scorers…
8 – Costa
7 – Aguero, Lukaku
6 – Sanchez
5 – Antonio, Defoe, Hazard, Walcott pic.twitter.com/m9HnE6hhRh
— Premier League (@premierleague) November 3, 2016
There is a question as to where Lukaku would fit under Conte if he were to move back to Chelsea—whom he joined from Anderlecht in 2011—owing to the fact Costa is leading their line with such aplomb at present.
Daniel Storey of Football365 was quick to point out Lukaku’s strengths run deeper than just goalscoring, however, as the player’s considerable frame lends itself well to his style of play:
@RowdenJRSG Was trying to say that while Lukaku’s goalscoring is rated highly, his chance creation is also excellent for a central striker.
— Daniel Storey (@danielstorey85) October 31, 2016
Although his first Chelsea stint was a failure, resulting in just 15 first-team appearances in the space of three years, Lukaku may not be able to rid himself of the thought of what might have been had he succeeded in west London.
Everton chief Ronald Koeman isn’t expecting interest in his player to cool anytime soon, either, and he told the media leading up to Saturday’s clash at Chelsea:
He is a big striker who will always generate interest from big clubs and from bigger clubs than Everton but the boy is 23 and he took the right decision to stay.
He can improve and he needs to improve. That’s good because it is very difficult to get a replacement for a player who compares to Romelu, maybe impossible.
I was a little bit afraid to lose the player.
Meanwhile, Chelsea may have to compete against Barcelona if they’re to sign Rangers whiz Gilmour, who was scouted by the Spanish titans during Scotland’s under-16 clash against France, per the Sun’s Matt Heath-Smith.
It’s said Bayern Munich are also interested in the 15-year-old, and Heath-Smith cited the Daily Record, which was informed by a source: “Barcelona came to watch just Billy in the game against France and see him as a player in the Xavi or Iniesta mould in terms of his size and technical ability."