Between Chelsea-sponsored pitches, hallway chats with management, and rumored talks of a return, Romelu Lukaku’s decision to come back to Stamford Bridge seemed as certain as his status as one of Europe’s best strikers under 25.
These factors combined to complete a seemingly airtight transfer rumor – Lukaku to Chelsea was only a matter of personal terms being agreed upon. All that had to be done was put pen to paper, scribbling out a signature resembling the Belgian’s name.
What appeared certain was never so, and understanding why comes easily once you consider this: Paul Pogba and Romelu Lukaku are close friends. Chelsea Football Club offer a lot for the young striker, but none of it is guaranteed in the long term. In Manchester United’s current state, ‘Rom’, as his friends call him, would have a seat in the changing room for years to come.
The West London side are reigning champions in a campaign that saw United finish sixth. Chelsea need strikers, while United could do with someone capable of scoring on a weekly basis. Chelsea have proven talent that performs on a high level every time they set foot on the pitch, while United play like a drain clogged with a clump of Fellaini’s hair.
United are managed by Jose Mourinho, who thought Lukaku was surplus to requirements when he was in charge at Stamford Bridge. That was a number of years ago, and surely both have grown and changed their opinions of one another, but a few phone calls won’t sign a player that easily.
United offered something else, something you can’t find in England’s capital.
When he signed for Manchester United, Romelu Lukaku was happy with his choice, but you don’t ink a deal because some executives and the gaffer said they rate you and think you’re way cooler than Stormzy and don’t resemble him in any way. He wanted to be there.
Pogba, multi-faceted Frenchman, chilling by the pool like he has no idea what’s going on or his influence on the matter:
Chelsea can offer now, while United can offer now and later; with a young squad of burgeoning talent, United can hand Romelu the keys to the club, with the expectation and aspiration to win everything every year. Plus, you get to do it with one of your best footballing friends, a midfield wonder who has his own legacy to build and expectations to surpass.
Perhaps Lukaku saw himself in Pogba, in Manchester United, and in the iconic stage that is Old Trafford. He saw himself at Chelsea, too, but at this point, it was in the form of a painful memory. In the revolving carousel that is the Chelsea starting XI, Lukaku saw himself fighting for a starting role in a year, the year after, or whenever Roman Abramovich spots a shiny new talisman.
Pogba was promised a starring role in Manchester, and Romelu likely received a similar pitch, one that was genuine and this time, for certain.