Chelsea's new king: Lukaku finally ready to inherit Drogba's throne


The Belgium striker only started one league game during his previous spell at Stamford Bridge but he is now returning to lead Thomas Tuchel's attack

At the third time of asking, Romelu Lukaku is set to receive a royal welcome at Chelsea.


The Belgian first arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2011 as a little-known 18-year-old attacker from Anderlecht.


After taking the Eurostar train between Brussels and London, Lukaku was presented to the press alongside another promising young signing, Oriel Romeu, who had been prised away from Barcelona.


Lukaku failed to make an impact in west London, though, and was allowed to join Everton on a permanent transfer in 2014, for £28m ($39m).


So impressively did he perform at Goodison Park that Chelsea tried to buy him back just three years later. However, Manchester United won the race for his signature having made Lukaku feel more wanted.


As the summer of 2021 began, though, Chelsea knew that they desperately needed a world-class No.9. They have have just won the Champions League but it was clear that they were still lacking a prolific goalscorer.


Thanks to two sensational seasons at Inter after a dismal end to his Old Trafford career, Lukaku was quickly identified as a target, featuring on an ambitious shortlist that also included Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland, Tottenham's Harry Kane and Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski.


However, despite their financial problems, the Nerazzurri initially made it clear that their star centre-forward wasn't for sale.


As far as the Serie A side were concerned, Achraf Hakimi was the only key player in last season's Scudetto success would would be allowed to leave this summer in order to ease their monetary concerns.


So, Chelsea continued to explore other options. Crucially, though, they maintained an open dialogue with Lukaku's agent Federico Pastorello, who informed them earlier this month that Inter were now willing to negotiate.


A first bid of £85m ($117m) was turned down but Lukaku, who had pledged his allegiance to the Serie A champions earlier in the window, was beginning to open up to the idea of returning to Chelsea.


A phone call from Blues boss Thomas Tuchel effectively sealed the deal, with the German convincing Lukaku that the peak years of his career would be best spent with the European champions than a club struggling to make ends meet.


All that remained was for a fee to be agreed, and Inter eventually accepted an offer of £98 million ($136m). Chelsea, of course, had only paid £10m ($14m) for the striker's services a decade ago but that was of no concern Tuchel.


He admired Lukaku has a player and had never heard anything but good things about the Belgium international from those who had previously worked with him.


Tuchel was only further convinced that Lukaku was the right man to lead his team after their one-one-one. During that call, he got a sense of the drive and determination that turned Lukaku into the player he is today.


He come from humble beginnings in Antwerp. Life was never easy for Lukaku or his brother Jordan, both of whom became professional footballers not just because of their talent, but also their tenacity.


"It’s a relief when you make it after so many years. We also wanted to help out our parents as our family wasn't doing well financially when we were kids," Jordan Lukaku told Goal.


"It was rough, so we were motivated to do more. It’s not normal to have two from a family make it. That’s what pushed us."


Indeed, Yannick Ferrera, one of Lukaku's former coaches at youth-team level at Anderlecht, revealed to Goal that the attacker had a drive that separated him from his peers.


"What was great with him was that he was so hungry," Ferrera explained. "He wanted to train, he wanted to learn, he wanted more.


"He never thought 'I am better than the others.' He thought 'I want to become better than the others, so I must train and work hard.'


"From day one, he was a great kid and I am sure that he is a great man now."


Amid all of the excitement surrounding Lukaku's return, he still has his doubters in England.


He flopped at Manchester United, they say. He doesn't do it in big games, apparently. But that Premier League-centric thinking ignores the massive improvement he enjoyed working under Antonio Conte at Inter.


“He arrived at the right club, at the right time, with the right coach and has developed this incredible maturity," Belgium boss Roberto Martinez told Goal.


“He is no longer just the goalscorer that we all know. He is someone that can affect the game, he can lift players around him. He can really, really influence what you're going to do on the pitch.


“He is still only 28 and his goalscoring record is amazing, but I think Romelu has, most importantly, become a very mature footballer in the last 14 months."


Everything seems to have finally fallen into place for both Lukaku and Chelsea.


The boy who arrived at Stamford Bridge 10 years ago hoping to emulate his idol Didier Drogba looks perfectly placed to belatedly realise his dream.


As the 'King of Chelsea' tweeted after Lukaku's return was confirmed, "He's coming home!"


And a fittingly royal welcome awaits.


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