Young and ambitious

West Bromwich Albion's Romelu Lukaku... enjoying his loan move.-AP

Romelu Lukaku joined Chelsea from Anderlecht in the summer of 2011 but was seen very much as one for the future and he rarely featured during his first season in England. Now with Albion on a season-long loan and although most of his appearances have come as a substitute, the Belgium front-man has shown why he is so highly regarded. By Pete Thompson.

Romelu Lukaku has been billed as the next Didier Drogba but it is West Brom and not Chelsea who are currently benefiting from the powerful striker’s undoubted potential.

The teenager joined Chelsea from Anderlecht in the summer of 2011 but was seen very much as one for the future and he rarely featured during his first season in England. Twelve months later the GBP13 million man was allowed to join English Premier League rivals Albion on a season-long loan and although most of his appearances have come as a substitute, the Belgium front-man has shown why he is so highly regarded.

Lukaku, 19, scored his sixth goal of the season to give the Baggies victory over Norwich and he is loving every minute of playing his part in the Baggies’ magnificent season so far.

With Chelsea short of options up front the question has been raised as to whether Blues interim boss Rafael Benitez will recall talented teenager Lukaku, but the youngster is eager to stay with Albion this season and would be open to a return to the Hawthorns for the 2013/14 campaign. Lukaku said: “I want to stay here. I’ve had so many questions in the last few weeks asking ‘are you staying?’ I have a lot of contact with Chelsea, but they are asking questions about my development and I tell them I’m very happy to be here.

“I have not spoken to the manager (Rafael Benitez) but I know what is going on. For me, it is one year loan and then hopefully it may be one year again next season. I need to play as much as I can in the next two years. For me, it is very important to play week in and week out because, at 19, you want to develop and I hope to be one of the great players in the Premier League.That is my ambition but I have to be patient as well. I can learn a lot here, I can improve here.

“Chelsea know this season that I’m improving, and when I go back there, I want to be a much better player than when I arrived there. My main ambition is to start in the first 11 in every game at Chelsea. Chelsea know I‘m a player that is hungry to play football and they will benefit from that in the future.”

It is hard to believe Lukaku is still a teenager given his powerful physique and he has already made 18 appearance for a star-studded Belgium side which has the potential to become one of the leading national teams in Europe.

After joining his local team Rupel Boom at the age of just five he was scouted by Lierse SK and joined the academy at the Belgian Pro League side, scoring an incredible 121 goals in 68 games. When Lierse were relegated in 2006, Anderlecht wasted no time in moving for Lukaka and he continued his prolific form by scoring an astonishing 131 goals in 93 games in the Belgium giants’ youth team.

In 2009 Anderlecht swiftly rewarded him with a professional contract as soon as he turned 16 and he made his Belgium First Division debut just 11 days later. Lukaku’s emergence had not gone unnoticed and he secured a dream move to Chelsea in August 2011 for an initial fee of GBP13 million, which could rise to GBP18million.

Lukaku revealed he had dreamed of playing for the Blues when he went on a school trip to London and toured Stamford Bridge, but with Drogba and Fernando Torres among Chelsea’s striking options his chance to make a name for himself would have to wait. It was not until May that he made his EPL bow and when Chelsea won the UEFA Champions League final against Bayern Munich, Lukaku could not bring himself to celebrate like a winner due to his lack of action in Europe.

But he was given the opportunity to move to West Brom in the summer and despite playing second fiddle to Shane Long for much of the season, he has shown his quality when given the chance to start or come off the bench — scoring on his debut against Liverpool in August.

Albion boss Steve Clarke said: “When Romelu came here, I saw a boy with little confidence about the fact that he came over here for a lot of money and had not had many chances to play in the Premier League. Now he has more confidence, his touch is improving, his work rate is better. It can improve again. I keep telling him his workrate can get better. But he is a handful for defenders and I think you can say his all round performances have improved.

“He has become more of a team player but still with the knack of being in the right place.”

FACTFILE THE PLAYER: Romelu Lukaka POSITION: Striker

CLUB: Chelsea (currently on loan at West Brom)

DOB: 13/05/1993 INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 18 INTERNATIONAL GOALS: 3

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Scoring his first EPL goal in Albion’s victory over Liverpool on the opening day of the season.

MOMENT TO FORGET: Missing out on a place on the bench for Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League victory over Bayern Munich in May 2012.

© PA Sport, 2013, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.