Arm in arm with his Chelsea teammates, Romelu Lukaku stood on the halfway of the Sinobo Stadium pitch and watched on as the nine players before him converted from the penalty spot. Then it was his turn.
All the pressure was on the 20-year-old: miss and Bayern Munich would win the 2013 UEFA Super Cup. And in front of him stood the domineering presence of Manuel Neuer.
Lukaku steadied himself, puffed out his cheeks, and fired a low shot towards the left corner of Neuer’s goal. It wasn’t a great spot-kick. The Bayern goalkeeper guessed right and the save was easy. Chelsea were beaten.
It was a painful moment for Lukaku, but one that had a big impact on his career. “A sad memory but it made me stronger, more determined to be successful,” he said earlier this year in a Twitter Q&A.
That missed penalty proved to be Lukaku’s last action in a Chelsea shirt. Three days later he would Everton on a season-long loan. The following summer, he moved to Goodison Park permanently.
“I am very happy with the choices I’ve made,” he explained in 2014. “Sometimes things like this happen in football. Sometimes it’s not meant to be. Chelsea are a big club and when I arrived I was 18. I was very ambitious.
“They taught me how to be a professional, a work ethic and a winning mentality. It is a great football club. I wouldn’t say anything bad about that club but I didn’t want to be on the bench for ten years.”
Lukaku has been on quite the journey since leaving Chelsea. He spent three years as an Everton player. Then two at Manchester United, who he joined in the summer of 2017 after opting against a return to Stamford Bridge.
A move to Inter Milan followed in August 2019 and the Belgian has enjoyed great success at the San Siro. He has struck 64 goals in 95 games for the club and spearheaded their charge to the Serie A title last term.
Through it all, however, there has always been a sense that Lukaku had unfinished business with Chelsea. A boyhood Blues fan who idolised Didier Drogba and stood in awe at the side of the Stamford Bridge pitch at 17, surely there would be another chapter to his Chelsea story?
Now it is finally being written. Yesterday, the champions of Europe struck a deal worth around £98million to bring Lukaku back to west London. A five-year contract has been agreed with the Belgium international. All that’s left is the medical and official confirmation.
Then will come Lukaku’s second debut in a Chelsea shirt. And on the assumption that the deal is all signed off before 11pm on Tuesday, that will likely come against Villarreal in Belfast on Wednesday.
The occasion? The UEFA Super Cup.
It would be fitting that the game that ended Lukaku’s first spell at Chelsea is where his second begins. And make no mistake, the 28-year-old will be desperate to avenge what happened in 2013.
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Source by Football London