Belgium manager Marc Wilmots has said Romelu Lukaku puts too much pressure on himself, after the striker’s poor start to the side’s World Cup campaign.
Lukaku was subbed off before the hour mark in the opening two games, after failing to make an impact, but Wilmots believes the Chelsea frontman can still offer a lot to the team going forward.
‘He puts too much pressure on himself,’ he said. ‘I messed up in my first two World Cups because I was obsessed with winning. I was expecting the younger players to handle the occasion less well, simply because they would be thinking about nothing else but the need to win.
‘I know Lukaku can do better and he knows that too. He’s still very important for us.’
After Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke was ruled out due to a torn Achilles tendon, Lukaku was pegged as the man to lead the line for Belgium’s “Golden Generation” in their first major international tournament since the 2002 World Cup, where Wilmots himself captained the side.
With the team looking to make up for the years lost in the international wilderness, many had the Diables Rouges pinpointed as the dark horses for Brazil but their performances in the 2-1 and 1-0 wins over Algeria and Russia, respectively, were largely underwhelming to say the least.
Despite qualifying for the last 16 with a game to spare and needing just a draw from their final Group H game against South Korea to seal top spot, the side’s attack has looked toothless so far and there have even been some calls for Lukaku to be dropped from the side for fellow youngster Divock Origi.
With the 21-year-old coming off an impressive loan season at Everton, in which he helped guide the club to a fifth place Premier League finish with 15 goals in 31 games, there were high hopes for the former Anderlecht prodigy this summer but his star man status for Belgium currently looks tenuous as the knockout stages near.
His future at Chelsea also in limbo, having reportedly grown frustrated with the lack of opportunities at the club, and likely only heightened by the imminent arrival of Atlético Madrid’s Diego Costa, the World Cup was set to be the stage upon which Lukaku would showcase his talents to the top sides across Europe.
However, while the £25 million-rated wonderkid clearly hasn’t justified his price tag over the last two weeks, his reputation as one of the game’s hottest young properties remains intact and, with the likes Atlético themselves, Juventus and Tottenham Hotspur all chasing his services, one lacklustre tournament is unlikely to deter their interest too much.