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Lukaku & Mourinho: Where did it all go wrong?

The 21-year-old has been deemed surplus to requirements by Jose Mourinho, despite proving prolific in front of goal in loan spells with both West Brom and his new club Everton

Jose Mourinho has transformed strikers’ careers. He turned Diego Milito from a Genoa forward into the man who decided the Champions League final. He reinvented Samuel Eto’o as a scorer who would willingly shield his right-back if it meant winning the treble. He converted Didier Drogba into Europe’s most feared target man. He even inspired lasting affection from the temperamental Zlatan Ibrahimovic, despite selling him.

It is fair to say Romelu Lukaku is unlikely to join that distinguished quartet among the forwards in Mourinho’s fan club. In theory a catalytic manager and a hugely gifted attacker ought to have combined profitably for both and, in particular, for Chelsea. In practice, it seems, their relationship was over when it had barely begun.

The confirmation Lukaku is off to Everton brings a permanent parting of the ways. The reality is they separated last September, 72 hours after the Belgian missed his penalty in the European Super Cup shootout against Bayern Munich. Lukaku never did score for Chelsea. He may have deprived Mourinho of a trophy then.

As a more pertinent piece of silverware eluded the Portuguese, the decision to loan Lukaku out appeared more costly. As Manchester City won the league, as Mourinho lamented his lack of strikers, as Chelsea drew costly blanks against the comparative minnows of West Ham, Aston Villa, Crystal Palace and Norwich in the final four months of last season, the feeling was that the Blues could have benefited from the presence of Lukaku.

Not that Mourinho appears to concur. Unapologetic, unrepentant, unwilling to change course, the sense is he didn’t give Lukaku a chance. The irony is that he signalled the 21-year-old’s departure by re-signing his role model, Drogba. They may be deemed too similar to co-exist at a club.