It was the inevitable question. With Chelsea’s strikers yet to score a league goal between them, and with Romelu Lukaku already netting three times for Everton, Jose Mourinho was asked if he regretted sending the Belgian to Goodison Park on loan.
“No,” he replied. “It’s one thing to play for Everton, another to play for Chelsea.”
That it is, and yet surely when it comes to goal-scorers, the club you play for doesn’t reflect your ability as much as your record against everyone else.
Lukaku’s 17 goals and four assists during his spell at West Bromwich Albion was a pretty emphatic reminder to the club who signed him for close to £20million only to swiftly (and regularly) send him elsewhere.
That he already has three goals and one assist in just two league matches for the Toffees only makes his case for a starting birth at Stamford Bridge that much stronger.
Playing for Chelsea is different to playing for Everton. But Lukaku must be wondering what he has to do to ever play for the club that continues to pick older and far less prolific men in his place.
If Lukaku is banging in the goals for a side like West Brom, and latterly Everton, surely with the supply-line available at Chelsea he would only score more.
It is a simple analysis, but then it appears to be a simple-to-solve problem of Chelsea’s own making.
During his time with the Baggies, the then-19-year-old scored three goals against Sunderland, three against Reading, two against both Swansea and Liverpool, along with many more.
He also scored a hat-trick against Manchester United, a week after his 20th birthday.
To say he cannot yet play for Chelsea simply because they are Chelsea – because it somehow requires a different mind-set to succeed in such surroundings – does not hold up.
If it is confidence Mourinho wants, Lukaku has it in abundance. And while he does not yet have the experience, he has the potential to be the most devastating striker in the league – given that only just into his 20s he already has the ability (on his day) to be unplayable.
So perhaps whatever Mourinho says into a microphone, there is an element of regret in letting a hugely-gifted and constantly-threatening young striker score the goals for someone else for the second successive season.
The Chelsea boss is too proud to admit that. But he will be hoping Lukaku’s own pride does not one day see him leave for good.
Do you believe the Belgian should already be in Chelsea's first-team plans?
image: © Wshjackson