Romelu Lukaku admits he is just a freak

Everton's on-loan striker is a force of nature who studies endless videos to improve himself

The sight of Romelu Lukaku up close brings to mind Bill Shankly's invitation to reporters when unveiling centre-back Ron Yeats at Anfield many years ago: "Go on, walk around him." The 20-year-old is built like a heavyweight boxer and the sight of Everton's press officer handing him a new Xbox controller to replace the one he broke in frustration playing a video game recently only enhances the feeling you are dealing with a rare force of nature. "My goalkeeper made an error in the last minute of extra-time and that did it," he recalls with a smile. "I twisted the controls around and it was game over."

Recent real-life opponents have received similarly bruising treatment amid Lukaku's sparkling form for Everton since the striker's deadline-day arrival on a season's loan from Chelsea. He headed the winner after coming off the bench on his debut at West Ham and has not looked back since, making it five goals in as many League games in last Saturday's win at Aston Villa.

His awestruck team-mate Sylvain Distin noted this week that it took him years in a gym to develop a physique like Lukaku's, yet what is equally impressive about the prodigious Belgium striker is his mature outlook. Lukaku knows exactly what he wants, a self-confessed "football freak" who spends hours poring over DVDs of games and players in his quest to become the best. "I observe a lot of great players because if you want to be one of them you have to see how their development as a player happened," he reflects. "What they do on and off the pitch. I try to inspire myself by watching those clips."

Happily, he reveals he has found a kindred spirit in Everton manager Roberto Martinez. "I'm a football freak but he's one as well. Every time I notice something in a game I've seen at the weekend, so has he." He cites a conversation before last week's visit to Villa Park. "I told him I watched [Tottenham striker Roberto] Soldado heading the ball [against Villa] and the cameras gave a view from up in the stands and you could see how much space there was. I said, 'Did you notice?' and he said, 'Yeah, and you have to play like this and like that'."

Lukaku is speaking at Liverpool's Hilton hotel before receiving Everton's September player of the month award. Many good judges scratched their heads when Chelsea loaned him out again, despite his 17 goals for West Bromwich Albion last term, yet Lukaku insists: "It was my decision to leave and I think I made a good choice." There were, he explains, "a lot of teams" interested but conversations with Belgian colleagues Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini helped make up his mind. "I had to challenge myself again, to play in a team that has most of the possession. I had to improve my movement, my skills, my determination. At Everton, it was the stage I was looking for, playing in a team where my team-mates are more experienced. Also Roberto Martinez is playing the Spanish style of football. All those things were attractive."

Lukaku – with power, pace, aerial presence and two good feet – seems the finished product in so many ways that it is easy to forget he is still learning. He completed a full League match just seven times last term and Martinez's words about him being a 90-minute player come to mind when Lukaku mentions the need to "be decisive in the last minutes".

That will surely come. He cites the example of his hero Didier Drogba, whose old Chelsea boots he seems perfectly equipped to step. "When he got older, he got better and better. Some players when they get [to] 29, 30 have arrived at their peak. But he was the best at 32. I ask how, but when you start working with him you see the way he's preparing for games, the way he's training.

"Van Persie is somebody as well," he adds. "He was a player who had a lot of injuries and became an injury-free player and top scorer in the League two years in a row. Those players are quite inspiring. My main ambition is just being the best. At everything. Winning games. Scoring goals at the weekend."

That hunger is certainly helping an Everton side who host Tottenham today on the back of their best start to a season since qualifying for the Champions League in 2004/05. He believes a squad with a "good mix of experienced and upcoming players" should be capable of challenging for Europe, but warns it is early days. "From early March, that's when the race for places in the top starts. We have a great team and a great manager as well, who is ambitious too. But it's November." Spoken like a veteran. At 20. Now that's freakish.

Vlad's view

New Tottenham Hotspur centre-half Vlad Chiriches believes Andre Villas-Boas's youth is a value and that the club can win the Premier League under the 36-year-old manager.

The Romania captain joined from Steaua Bucharest for £8.5m as part of Spurs' late transfer flurry, and was immediately impressed by Villas-Boas's approach. "It's good because he's young, he understands us. [We have] enough quality to win the Premier League."

Chiriches sought the advice of Spurs' previous Romanian stars Gheorge Popescu and Ilie Dumitrescu before joining. "[They] told me it was a big club with a big history."

But the move was not strightforward. The Steaua Bucharest owner, Gigi Becali, was so angry at Spurs' attempts to push it through that he reportedly rang demanding the transfer be cancelled.

"There were complications," Chiriches said. "When you see you're so close to a big club and something happens it's a bad feeling... I told them I want to go."

Miguel Delaney

Everton v Tottenham Hotspur is on Sky Sports 1 today, kick-off 1.30pm

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices