"We have to respect Didier, because Didier's unique in Chelsea history," Mourinho said.
"And we have to respect Lukaku and the best way to respect Lukaku is not to compare him with a legend of Chelsea Football Club. The kid is good."
Lukaku – ‘the kid’ – impressed on loan at West Brom last term where he scored 17 goals, and made 7 assists, averaging a goal every 118 minutes. The 20-year-old Belgian striker returns to Stamford Bridge having made his name but, as Mourinho asserts, his name is nowhere near equating what Didier Drogba’s means to Chelsea and their fans.
However, it is important to note that Lukaku’s performance last season did in fact surpass Drogba’s first in the Premier League – in 2004/05 the Ivorian scored 10 goals and made 5 assists in the league and that was at the age of 27.
By 32 years of age, in 2009/10 Drogba has his best season scoring 29 goals and making 10 assists with Chelsea. The Blues won the Premier League title and the FA Cup that year and Drogba goes down in history as the club’s fourth- highest goal scorer behind Frank Lampard, Bobby Tambling and Kerry Dixon with a total of 157.
However, whilst Lukaku still has some way to go to reach that kind of tally and that kind of status as a legend, the kid isn’t doing all that badly. Considering also that West Brom finished out the season in 8th place and Chelsea finished 3rd, imagine what Lukaku would have and likely will be capable of surrounded by the likes of Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar, Lampard, Ramires and new signing Andre Schurrle. Rationality would lead me to believe he could score a lot more goals if he played in a better team with more quality.
The issue, of course, is going to be whether or not he’ll be able to gain regular access to the first team – with West Brom he featured in 35 out of 38 league games but I suspect that will not be the case with the Blues next term.
Didier Drogba consistently featured in more than 25 league games a season for the Blues – in his eight seasons, three times he appeared more than 30 times and only once did he appear less than 20 (due to injury).
I suspect that if the kid is to emulate Drogba’s success he is going to need to be granted Drogba’s opportunity and chances but, if Mourinho’s comments are anything to go by, that is unlikely to be the case – at least not as consistently as with Drogba.
Mourinho’s comments are, of course, for the most part about respecting the club’s legend but, underneath, there is also a message to Romelu Lukaku that implicitly states the young man should not get ahead of himself.
The kid is good, but quite rightly, he’s still got a long way to go to prove himself worthy of comparison to Didier Drogba.
image: © wshjackson