Attracting Attention; The Refulgent Rise of Romelu Lukaku

RomeluLukaku&Drogba(Like For Like)
Its Like Meeting Clarke Kent, A Boy & His Hero | Romelu Lukaku & Didier Drogba
RomeluLukaku(Anderlcht)
Primed For Greatness | A Teenage Romelu Lukaku

#TheSuperMarket

It seems as if modern day football is the only sphere were one can become a professional at 16 and still have their ability & potential doubted and discussed even though one continues to perform at the elite level and show gradual signs of improvement; which brings be to the question of the day, why do we still continue to doubt and underrate Romelu Lukaku?

Having recently cemented his place in football history by joining the EPL “50 before 23 Club”, becoming the 5th footballer to score 50 Premier League goals before the age of 23, joining an illustrious honour roll that includes Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney & Cristiano Ronaldo; Romelu should be seen as an elite level star when we consider the body of work he has compiled at 22, with the different clubs and philosophies he has played under thrown into consideration. The fact that Lukaku scored no goals for Chelsea in his time at the club is actually laudable in hindsight; Romelu has proven that he is an elite level finisher while excelling at clubs that don’t always provide the quality chances afforded to leading forwards at other top sides in the realm. It comes as no surprise that bigger clubs have been sniffing around Merseyside with the view of signing a player that has now earned the right to compete in Europe and prove his worth against some of the best clubs in the world, yet his gaffer, Roberto Martínez, may have been right to quickly refute those rumoured by adding that his star front man would easily fetch £ 55m in the current market climate; that figure is testament to the potential many saw in the teenager that seemed to bully men twice his age and score goals for fun at an alarming rate.

A boyhood Chelsea fan and a youngster that looked up to Blues legend Didier Drogba, one wouldn’t be remiss to think that Romelu felt hard done by in his time at the club, and rightly so, his performances out on loan were not justly rewarded with a spell in the first team; proving doubters wrong seems to be a driving factor for a young man who doesn’t seem to need much fuel to gas himself up once he gets in his Terminator Zone. Being touted as a young superstar in the making for your entire adult life can have a differing impact on different young players, Romelu seemed to carry the burden of his great potential and rave reviews until they threatened to either break him, or make him a better man; at 22, with a great career ahead of him, and some sound development behind him, the lad seems primed to fulfil and even exceed the expectations many had of the young lad that led scoring charts as a teenager and had scouts raving endlessly about his great future in the game.

Everton have had to deal with tons of transfer speculation regarding their key players over the past 24 months, be it Kevin Mirallas, Ross Barkley, John Stones, or Romelu Lukaku, the club have remained steadfast in their stance and refuse to be held ransom by any party; the investment into this current project has been measured and methodical in many regards and the Toffees will be conscious of the fact that they cannot keep hold of their stars without offering them good remuneration and the opportunity to play regularly at the highest level, European football will be essential for Everton and Bobby Martínez if they seek to sustain their resolve. Inversely, Everton could cash in on one or two assets and have enough in the kitty to go back in the market and rebuild around other talented young prospects with great potential and good resale value; the current crop of stars are on good long-term deals and playing some of their best football at an ambitious club that has the ability to match its lofty ambitions, yet we have seen good projects rebuilt due to players leaving for greener pastures and shinny trinkets.

The transfer speculation has been justified by Romelu’s brilliant numbers and performances this season; having led the attacking line alone for most of his career, Lukaku has now begun to show just how dynamic he can be with is amalgamation of pace, power and precision combining to make for a quintessential modern age striker that scores goals add adds genuine value to an attacking unit. Everton raised many eyebrows when they paid a club record £ 28m to sign Lukaku in July of 2013, Chelsea had doubled their investment on a player they were choosing to discard and it seemed like a brilliant piece of business for the club; hindsight may have us believing that The Blues actually did themselves a disservice in selling a player that could come back to haunt them, on the field, or cost them financially, when the inevitably seek to by him back in years to come. The Toffees seem set to double their investment into Lukaku, should they look to cash in on their star striker; the Romelu doubters are quietly being silenced with each passing season of growth and development, while the finished article may be far from arrival, Bob’s your Lierse S.K. beer mug having uncle, this lad will go down in history as a pretty decent striker when all is said and done.

Romelu Lukaku

Bio

Full Name: Romelu Menama Lukaku

DoB: May 13th, 1993 (22)

PoB: Antwerp, Belgium

Other Nationality: Congolese

Height: 1, 90m

Position: Advanced Forward, Complete Forward, Target-Man

Preferred Foot: Left

Current Club: Everton FC

Contract Expiry: June 30th, 2019

Youth Development Nests: Rupel Boom (99-03), KFC Wintam (03-04), Lierse (04-06), Anderlecht (06-09)

Former Clubs: Anderlecht (09-2011), Chelsea (2011-2014), West Bromwich Albion (2012-2013; Loan), Everton (2013-2014; Loan)

Market Value: £21m

Asking Price: £ 55m

Career Club Record: 248 Games; 105 Goals; 45 Assists

Caps & Goals: Belgium (37 Caps, 11 Goals); u/15 (4 Caps, 1 Goal); u/18 (1 Cap); u/21 (8 Caps, 1 Goal)

Possible Destinations

Paris Saint-Germain

The Parisian Project has not truly yielded a great return on investment, for the millions invested, there is no sign of the team improving and taking those extra leaps forward in Europe; winning the league is now a prerequisite for PSG when one considers their vast abundance of talent and riches, combined with the gradual decline of some of their closest rivals thrown in for good measure. The current offensive line has been in need of a face-lift for 18-odd months and now the missing piece seems to be a young elite level ready talent to lead an exciting attacking line that would include the dynamic duo of Lucas Moura and Ángel Di María; Romelu Lukaku would fit the bill perfectly as he would continue to develop at a high level and grow with another ambitious group of players that have the potential to truly flourish at the elite level.

The PSG link is considered unrealistic by those that feel as if Romelu may not be the marquee buy the club would need to lure in as a direct replacement for Zlatan Ibrahimović, yet the Belgian International would provide the club with a player that can contribute immensely from the onset, while still possessing the scope to grow and develop further into a player they’d be looking to add to their roster in years to come. Romelu Lukaku could be the dynamic figurehead an attacking side like PSG would require if they want to go further in the Champions League during the coming seasons, the lure of becoming s star at one of Europe’s most illustrious clubs and competing for major honours would be hard for any player to snub without due consideration and just merit.

Juventus

There is an age-old belief in football, that form is temporary while class remains permanent; no truer words can be spoken regarding Juventus and how they managed to rebuild their club, after a shambolic end to an era, and re-establish themselves as a European powerhouse that can compete with the best of them. A new stadium and increased revenue from improved commercial appeal has now enabled the Old Lady of Turin to compete on the transfer market as well, while Italian teams are known to scour the lesser followed territories for talent or buy proven players that are being undervalued at some bigger European clubs, instead of procuring a star for big money from another European rival; Juve seem conscious of the fact that their talisman, Paul Pogba, would be more inclined to leave if he remains one of the truly superstar players on the roster every season. The arrival of a big money buy, or two, could settle any unrest in the Pogba camp and afford the current group an optimal opportunity at succeeding together while capitalising on the great growth experienced by Juve in their rise back to the top.

Romelu Lukaku has the physical and technical gifts to excel in Italian football, and the thought of playing in more of a partnership upfront would be enticing for any forward looking to improve and up their output on the field; if Juventus were looking to rebuild their team around an attacking tandem of Lukaku and Paulo Dybala, they’d potentially create the ideal “Big & Small” striker combination for their flexible and direct style of football. Such a move would require brevity and a genuine interest from all parties, Juve do have the attraction and the pedigree to tempt any player in the realm, yet they would need to step out of their comfort zone a tad bit by investing big money in a signing that could pay off exponentially in years to come.

Arsenal

The two most recent Everton to Arsenal transfers would scare of many thoughts of a Lukaku move to London Colney; Francis Jeffers is the name that comes to mind for many, a “fox-in-the-box” that cost good money and showed little in return during his spell at Arsenal, all after establishing himself as an exciting young talent on Merseyside. Mindful of the fact that we live in a different time, and Romelu is a completely different player, the lessons must be learned if one is to fully grow and actually learn; Arsenal do need a different option upfront, some might add that “quality” would be the operative word to add in that statement, and Romelu Lukaku is dynamic enough to add that extra bit of quality to an already gifted attacking unit.

For all the flack Olivier Giroud catches, he does score some of the endless opportunities he often seems to be provided and that fact cannot be overlooked, the one true flaw in his game is his evident lack of pace and the ability to make definitive runs off the ball when his team is in possession for long period of time; the addition of Lukaku would mean that Arsenal can remain with a focal point or outlet ball at all times, yet they would now also have a big man that can hold it up or get in behind and offer more goalscoring options. The fact that Lukaku is young, talented and proven in the EPL will make one question the feasibility of Le Prof dipping into his vast transfer kitty to sign a player he was rumoured to be close to snatching from under the noses of Chelsea when he was still a teen; one thing is sure, Arsenal have signed lesser forwards than Romelu and the lad would add true quality to their current side, and a Belgian international on your roster is the new accessory in European football.

Chelsea

The “buy-them-cheap, sell-them-steep” transfer policy employed at Chelsea now seems to be questionable when we consider the on-field returns on those investments; Chelsea have been a team in need of a rebuild even prior to winning their title last season, yet they wouldn’t have needed to tap into the market for those replacements, as they had quietly amassed a roster of talented young players befitting of a seasoned Football Manager enthusiast shopping off the Wunderkind Lists made available on the net. Fast forward 24 months, and three of their former charges have developed into the calibre of player needed at Stamford Bridge currently; Marco van Ginkel would have given them more defensive solidity and allowed Cesc Fàbregas to play further forward against more direct opposition, Kevin De Bruyne would have negated the need for an overreliance on Eden Hazard and Willian or aided in the avoidance of Oscar becoming burned out when he should be shining brightest.

Undoubtedly, the biggest loss was that of a player that seemed destined to replace his boyhood hero and become the bullish yet sophisticated striker Chelsea have had since the days of Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Tore André Flo; a combination of factors can be attributed to the regrettable departure of Lukaku from Cobham, yet one would be remiss not the think that Romelu would be welcomed back with open arms by all and sundry at Chelsea. The Diego Costa experiment may not last as long as many hoped it would, he has begun to be more disruptive than he is dependable for goals and his dip in form has coincided with a general decline in the team’s ability to be effective under the current systems deployed. A new frontline striker will be needed at Chelsea, sooner rather than later, and the outside bet would be a move for a player that wouldn’t need much time acclimatising to a ground and a jersey he has adored since he was just a boy; the good money would be on whether The Blues have it within them to spend big on buying back a player they shouldn’t have let leave in the first place.

Advertisements

Attracting Attention; The Beguiling Benik Afobe

BenikAfobe(PonderingGreatness)
Contemplating Greatness | Benik Afobe At Wolves
BenikAfobe&ArseneWenger
Nurtured By A Legend | Benik Afobe At Arsenal

It is not uncommon for one to hear of a talented protégé flying the nestling bosoms of a Premier League club for another permanent home, playing regularly for a smaller Premier League or Football League club while looking to ensure that their development does not stall or allow their careers to regress due to a lack of regular competitive football. One cannot overlook the fact that many of these once highly touted prospects often fail to fulfil their true or once highly raved about potential after taking the “one stride backwards to move forward a few”; yet many a teenage prodigy has graduated into a proven Premier League footballer, after putting in some good performances and cashing in on spells out on loan and experienced gained in the reserve leagues or at youth international level to prove that potential can always reach a stage where it is regularly translating into ability and relying itself out in solid and consistent performances on the field.

Benik Afobe will be a name that only begun to resonate with some in the last 18 months, yet the London born natural goal scorer has long been touted for greatness after showing glimpses of his potential at an early age as yet another star in a galaxy of starlets at London Colney. It has been noted that the development of natural born no: 9’s has stalled across the fraternity over the years, the rarity of an out & out striker has led to an advancement in tactical approach on the offensive end of the pitch as gaffers look to create goals from more outlets to reduce the dependency on the forwards, yet there will never be any substitute for a natural goal-getting forward in a team that wants to win more often than they lose or draw.

While Arsenal fans across the globe have been clamouring for their gaffer to add some much needed quality in depth going forward for the past few transfer windows, a young Londoner who was nurtured by The Gooners has proceeded to score goals with a high degree of dexterity and some highly commendable regularity; one begins to wonder if the reported £ 2m paid by Wolves to bring the lad over to Molineux in January of 2014 will seem like a considerable loss on investment for Arsenal in the coming years. Premiership clubs like Newcastle United & Norwich City have been sniffing around Afobe for months and Wolves will have to put up a brave fight if they want to ensure that they don’t lose out by cashing in on their asset without truly enriching the club and player off the deal; The Canaries have already had 3 bids rejected for the gifted forward with bags of pace and a nose for the net, it seems as if it is only a matter of time before Benik Afobe shows his growth and development as a player by finally earning the chance he’s craved to show that he is a Premiership striker in his own right.

A lot can be said about Arsène Wenger and his excellent record with young players, yet his home-grown youth development products have again fallen behind bought talent in the pecking order and we have become accustomed to watching a once highly touted Arsenal development graduate finally leaving the club for free or for a nominal fee after having spent time out on loan before being deemed “not good enough” for a future in the first team squad. The reasons may vary as to why players like Kerrea Gilbert, Mark Randall, Henri Lansbury, Jay Simpson, Luke Freeman, Sanchez Watt and Kyle Bartley, to name but a few, never progressed into fully fledged regulars in the Arsenal first team; yet one cannot help but spare a thought for the young footballers who used to have some assurance of a genuine shot a first team football after having been at the club for years learning how to play the Arsenal way.

A young lad ought to develop a great degree of experience and jumpstart the development process somewhat by playing regular competitive football while still in the formative stages of their development as a footballer; yet there is a lot of question marks raised around the number of loans clubs tend to send young players out on these days, with the destinations and durations of the loan moves often not favouring holistic growth for both clubs and the player. 6 different loan spells in 5 seasons could break a young footballers resolve to aim for the elite level and break into the first team squad, yet a handy return of 32 goals in 118 games while out on loan was enough to prove to Wolves that they could invest in Afobe and get a proven goalscorer with the potential to get even better and yield a healthy return on investment when the bigger clubs inevitably come calling.

Afobe proved to all and sundry in his breakthrough campaign at MK Dons, in the 2014-15 season, that he had all the raw gifts to grow into a star player for club and country in years to come; comfortable on and off the ball, Afobe seemed to terrorise opposition defenders for fun at times and his remarkable overall haul of 32 goals in 51 games during last season, 19 for MK Dons & 13 for Wolves, should have justified his status as a young footballer ready to fight for advancement back up the totem pole and into the elite level of the Premier League.  Current gaffer Kenny Jackett, who mentored Afobe during his brief loan spell at Millwall in the 2012-13 season, has taken advantage of the players offensive versatility and deployed the lad in more of a Deep-Lying Forward position, where he has a bit more room to run at defenders with the ball and get involved in the creation of attacking play even more; this change in position may have resulted in some sporadic goals for the Leyton-born forward, yet his quality level has now been ascertained and the onus is fully on the player to continue stepping up when needed and showing a desire to fulfil the great potential we know he possesses.

Benik Afobe

Bio

Full Name: Benik Tunani Afobe

DoB: February 12th, 1993 (22)

PoB: Leyton, London; England

Height: 1, 83m

Position: Advanced Playmaker, Advanced Forward, Deep-Lying Forward, Complete Forward, Poacher (Left, Right, Centre)

Preferred Foot: Either

Current Club: Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. (Joined January 2015)

Contract Expiry: June 30th, 2018

Youth Development Nest: Arsenal (2001-2010)

Former Clubs: Arsenal (2010-2015), Huddersfield Town (Nov 2010- May 2011; Loan), Reading F.C. March 2012 – May 2012; Loan), Bolton Wanderers (August 2012 – January 2013; Loan), Millwall (February 2013 – May 2013; Loan), Sheffield Wednesday (January 2014 – May 2014; Loan), MK Dons (August 2014 – January 2015; Loan)

Market Value: € 7m

Asking Price: £ 14m

Career Club Record: 147 Games, 50 Goals & 20 Assists (Goal Ratio: 1 in 2.94 Games)

Caps & Goals: England u/12 {Captain}, England u/16 {3 Caps, 4 Goals}, England u/17 {23 Caps, 11 Goals}, England u/19 {10 Caps, 7 Goals}, England u/21 {2 Caps, 1 Goal}

Possible Destinations

Newcastle United

The Steve McLaren era has not brought the stability Geordies had hoped for, while their lads have displayed a better degree of resilience and an evident desire to improve, there seems to be a shortage of genuine quality in a number of positions; while Newcastle could benefit from the arrival of a commanding centre-half and a couple of tenacious yet industrious midfielders, a proven or reliable goal threat is required urgently if the club are to fight their way out of mediocrity and upwards in the League table.

Newcastle a known to be very keen on Afobe, with good reason too, the Leyton-born lad would add great dimension to their frontline and give the club a No: 9 to build their project around; Geordie fans a known to warm to a forward that plays the game in the right way and scores them a goal ever so often, methinks Benik Afobe would be a great fit in the Black & White of the Magpies, yet me wonders if Mike Ashley is willing to pay the premium and afford his club the best possible chance of survival in a pivotal season for many bottom half clubs.

Norwich City

The surprise package of the season, thus far, would undoubtedly be Leicester City due to their lofty position and the manner in which they are freely scoring goals and taking names; yet the true surprise should be Alex Neil’s Norwich City and the continuation of their meteoric rise while under the Scot’s tutelage, promoted via the play-offs with a surprise victory over promotion favourites Middlesbrough and currently sitting with an outside shot at survival already this season.

The Canaries posses a spirited unit brimming with experienced campaigners that have already shown a desire to keep the club in a respectable position, yet many have clamoured for City to invest well during January if they are to capitalise on the poor form of some teams around them and ensure survival in their maiden season back in the top flight before using the TV revenue to build a sustainable Premier League club by investing in a well structured project, ala-Crystal Palace. The signing of a talent like Benik Afobe would add that injection of 10-15 goals that will differentiate between the glory of survival and the agony of relegation; with so much competition for his signature, it would take a well structured proposal to lure Afobe over to Carrow Road as City look to spend some money to make some more money on the back-end.

Crystal Palace

If there were any Alan Pardew doubters left, they will surely have piped down by now as Pards has gradually built his Eagles side into one of the most exciting football clubs in England, and possibly the entire football realm. To many, the fact that Alan Pardew has built a good football team in itself is not too surprising, the man has always had it in him to be a good gaffer at the highest level; the surprising and highly commendable feat has to be the manner in which he has gone about his business, considering the circumstances he’s had to work under.

Crystal Palace aren’t traditionally Top 10 when players list clubs in England that they would sign for, yet Pardew has managed to attract some good players to Selhurst Park while using some highly commendable man-management skills to get the best out of the talent he already had on the books. There is no denying the potential for Palace to become a top half of the table side that competes for a spot in Europe while under the guidance of the man tipped as a future England manager, yet much of the potential could be fulfilled even earlier with more shrewd acquisitions in January; one such need is another quality forward option that might just guarantee Palace’s finish in the top 6 ahead of an underperforming London rival, Benik Afobe would fit like a globe at Pardew’s Palace, and the opportunity to reunite with his former attacking partner-in-crime, Bakary Sako, could be too tempting to refuse for the Londoner.

Bournemouth

It’s hard not to warm to young British managers these days, most seem to say all the right things in interviews and show a desire to bring a lasting imprint to football in an age where home-grown is the new prerequisite for many; one English manager who has already left a lasting impression in such a short time is Eddie Howe, his Bournemouth side seemed destined to continue their great rise and even push some of the big boys about in their maiden season, yet tragedy seems to have struck The Cherries when success looks ripe for the picking.

In every moment of devastation, lies the opportunity for revival and that is the case for a club that is crafting its own legacy in the big time; their football is enthralling at times, yet one feels that an injection of genuine quality would see the club establishing more of a resilience within their ranks and giving the team a better opportunity to grind out results in those less open games where points count far more than performance and style ever could. The loss of Callum Wilson will have been the bitterest pill to swallow, as it was the worst and most unfortunate of the serious injuries to have occurred during this knee ligament injury crisis, the striker was the most pivotal attacking player to the team played, with his constant goal threat and ability to press from the front tirelessly affording the midfield players room to make probing runs into; a replacement forward, or two, will have to come in during the January transfer window, even if it is only to maintain the status quo and ensure survival in a season where survival means unfathomable riches and growth from a big TV rights deal.

Half-Time Orange For Thought; In The Valley Of Decision, Sibusiso Vilakazi

To Move Or Not To Move? | #Banter
To Move Or Not To Move? | #Banter

#TheBootRoom

Dissected with the attention to detail of a legendary Masterchef 2nd season casting outcast , your good mate Uncle Bob serves up his weekly Half-Time Orange For Thought; a mental morsel for the sports fanatic with a healthy appetite for wholesome consumables. We at GSV have reluctantly declared ourselves accountable for any digestion difficulties that may or may not occur. Enjoy!

The rumoured R 6m bid from Kaizer Chiefs to BidVest Wits for the services of talisman Sibusiso Vilakazi has left a sour taste in my mouth; credible sources have the players’ market value at R 6,5m and his club have set an asking price of R 15m for a player they nurtured well. With those figures thrown into a mixture that contains the club’s reluctance to sell locally and the premium on local talent in our league, a bid of R 6m should be considered as nothing but laughable to say the least. While Kaizer Chiefs have had the player on their radar for what seems like eons in football rumour years, one would think that they of all people would be looking to ensure that they approach The Students with an offer that would appeal to even the most ardent of minds to reconsider their position. I personally consider the offer disrespectful to Wits and Mzansi Diski as a whole, it purely insinuates that Kaizer Chiefs can let go of their own established stars over monetary squabbles and then engage another club in an attempt to buy their star player for less than acceptable terms and possibly unsettle the player and disrupt the harmony within the locker room at Milpark without reprimand or reprise from the media or the fans.

One can fully understand why Wits remain steadfast in their refusal to sell Vila locally as they will be weakening their own side to strengthen a rival, or at worst, losing him to become a squad player at a rival club while the national team loses a possible attacking threat and the club gets a few Randela’s richer. We’ve seen it happen way too many times to turn a blind eye to it; Wits could easily be in it for the profit and dangle Vila in front of all the sharks in the water before throwing him off to the highest bidder with no concern for his career like some clubs have done in the past, yet their newer ideology is an admirable one and the academy prospects waiting to break into the side will be motivated by the devotion the club is showing to ensuring that their players receive the best holistic development and care for a long and prosperous football career.

My rant could prove to be futile if the overactive rumour mill is to be believed, yet I truly pray that Wits receive what they deserve if they are to sell their talisman and that Vila continues to grow and shine as a footballer regardless of which club colours he dons next season, as the national team needs him to be at his best in the seasons to come if we are to fulfil the promise within this current generation of talented footballers. BidVest Wits are an ideology steeped institution and their thriving development academy and well connected scouting network already have some promising young talents lined up to fill the great void The General would leave behind in Braamfontein and Bob’s your former Vaal Professionals adoring sekuru.