Romelu Lukaku makes strong case for leading the line at Chelsea ahead of Fernando Torres and Demba Ba

The £18m striker has impressed Mourinho and is confident he can score goals for club

Kuala Lumpur

The trail of bright young stars who have been through Chelsea in the last seven years, signed from all over the country and all over the world, is one of modern English football’s most  unusual phenomena. They have come at great expense from Europe and South America, Yorkshire and Kent, assigned to the academy or occasionally the first-team squad and many have simply faded away.

You could argue that of all of them, Romelu Lukaku had the greatest pressure of all because, at the age of 18, he came with a reputation as a prodigious goalscorer in Belgium’s Jupiler League on a deal worth £18m. He had been Anderlecht’s top goalscorer for the two previous seasons, the youngest player at the club ever to achieve that. He started the 2011-12 season at Anderlecht, which meant that he could not go out on loan once he had joined Chelsea and subsequently all but disappeared.

Having made just 12 appearances in his first season, Lukaku, still yet to score for the club in a competitive game, did not even help raise the Champions League trophy in Munich because he felt he was unworthy of the honour. There were mutterings of discontent before he was shipped out to West Bromwich Albion on loan and  re-launched in spectacular fashion with 17 league goals last season, nine more than Fernando Torres scored.

From Europe’s most sought-after teenage centre-forward to the man currently leading the line for Jose Mourinho’s new Chelsea on the club’s Asia tour – albeit in a squad without Torres – has been a long journey. Lukaku was a sensation in Belgium but in many respects he has had to start over again and only now is he in a  position to look ahead to a new season as a Chelsea player with optimism.

Mourinho likes the player and has not been afraid to say so, especially when he was trying to sign him in his Real Madrid days. He talks about Lukaku as a player he can mould and in his most extensive interview last week, referred to Torres as an “end product” – and it did not sound like a compliment. Lukaku, 20, is at the vanguard of the new Chelsea generation, those such as André Schürrle, Kevin de Bruyne, Tomás Kalas and, eventually Nathaniel Chalobah whom Mourinho is challenging to step up to the mark.

Chalobah, Mourinho says, will go out on loan next season “for the last time”, most likely to a Premier League club. So too, Josh McEachran,  although he has not been talked up by Mourinho to the same extent. Kalas and Lukaku will stay and the latter the club have resolved privately to keep even if they sign Wayne Rooney. If that deal goes through, it will be either Torres or Demba Ba who departs in order to thin out the strikers.

Lukaku has two goals in two games on tour already, his second in the suffocating heat of Sunday night at the Shah Alam stadium in Kuala Lumpur, an accomplished finish in a one-on-one with the goalkeeper. The player himself said afterwards that he was  responding to his new manager. “He is very direct and in your face – and I love that,” Lukaku said. “It is important. If he has something to say to you, he says it. That is a good thing.”

Mourinho may have to explain to Lukaku where he will fit into his plans should Rooney arrive.  Rooney would not accept a move if he thought it was to play second fiddle to a 20-year-old in his first proper season at the club. It will be the Englishman who starts big games – Mourinho’s man to play, as he says, in the “compact areas” – and Lukaku who can break down the teams who leave space in behind.

Asked about the possibility of Rooney joining, Lukaku said: “You know when you are playing for a team like Chelsea, there is going to be competition. I liked the competition from the first time I came here. Obviously, it is the manager’s choice. You have to accept that you have to work hard to make it a successful squad. If he [Rooney] is part of our team I will welcome him with open arms.”

There is such a significant Belgian contingent in the Chelsea first-team squad now with Lukaku, Eden Hazard and De Bruyne – with Thibaut Courtois on loan – that one of the Belgian newspapers have dispatched a correspondent to follow them around Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, where they arrive today. De Bruyne went back to London yesterday for a scan on his knee injury, although the club do not expect it to be serious.

Lukaku is a confident lad, and as one who was dominating defences in the Belgian top flight at the age of 16 he probably has every right to be. “I can score with both feet and with my head, I am very quick and skilful,” he said. “I can do a bit of everything but I can improve on things as well.”

Asked why Mourinho felt he could not operate naturally against sides that compress the play, he said: “One day that will change. He is the manager and he has a vision of the way he wants to play. The players have to  improve to do that. I certainly have it in me.” The biggest thing in his favour is that Mourinho likes him and Torres, who joins up on Sunday, is still yet to make a first impression on the new manager.

News
Tommy Ramone performing at The Old Waldorf Nightclub in 1978 in San Francisco, California.
peopleDrummer was final surviving member of seminal punk band
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
The Mexico chief finally lets rip as his emotions get the better of him
world cup 2014
Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Sport
Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Sport
Yaya Touré has defended his posturing over his future at Manchester City
News
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
news
Life and Style
beauty
Sport
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice