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record buy Romelu Lukaku admits he is a man on a mission as he prepares for his second coming at Chelsea

Belgian and inter milan legend reveals pain of his early failing

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Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea during a training session at Chelsea Training Ground on August 20, 2021 in Cobham, England. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea during a training session at Chelsea Training Ground on August 20, 2021 in Cobham, England. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea during a training session at Chelsea Training Ground on August 20, 2021 in Cobham, England. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

ROMELU Lukaku admits he will be seeking redemption as he looks to finally realise his Chelsea dream second time around.

Former Ireland striker Robbie Keane was the master of claiming every club he joined allowed him to realise a lifetime ambition to pull on his new jersey, but in ­Lukaku's case, that was true when he signed for Chelsea as an 18-year-old in 2011.

With his idol Didier Drogba leading the Blues' forward line when he arrived at Stamford Bridge, Lukaku was as tempted to ask for a selfie as he was to quiz the Blues legend for advice, as he set out on his career with lofty expectations.

Yet the first chapter of Lukaku's Chelsea story was destined to end in disappointment, as he failed to score a single goal and, significantly, could not convince a trio of high-profile managers that he was worthy of a run in the Blues team.

Now, a decade after that first arrival, Lukaku is back as a club record £97.5million signing from Inter Milan and as he prepares to make his second Chelsea debut against Arsenal today, he admits the ghosts of his past still haunt him.

"It was something I didn't want to talk about for a long time," he said, when he was asked about his first spell at Chelsea.

"I asked myself 'what went wrong', but I didn't want anyone else to know what I was feeling. It was something that I had on the back of my ­shoulders for many years.

"It was a source of motivation at the time, to prove some people wrong, but it was not a nice feeling to think I had not achieved what I wanted. And that's why sometimes I could come over as a bit aggressive in interviews, or very defensive when I got the question about Chelsea.

"Maybe I put too much pressure on myself, I think that was a problem. My expectation was too high, because I wanted to do well at Chelsea so badly," he said.

Maturity

"Now it's time to finally turn my dream into reality. That's why I had to take this chance when I knew Chelsea wanted to sign me again.

"Maturity has been important. I've learned much more about myself and I've set higher standards."

He added: "It's about becoming more complete as a player. I learned a lot in Italy and that experience means I come back to England as a better ­player, but I have to prove that on the pitch. Saying it in interviews doesn't matter."

Lukaku's development as a player and a man has seen him lean on some high-profile advisers over the last decade, with Drogba, former Chelsea captain John Terry and ­Premier League legend Thierry Henry among his inner circle.

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Now 28, and having achieved so much in a career that saw him become Belgium's all-time top scorer at international level in 2018, he admits the A-list support network around him has been crucial to allow him to mature.

"Why I speak to people like Didier, JT and Thierry is that records are not as important as trophies," says the striker who scored the goals that fired Inter Milan to the Italian league title last season.

"Everyone tells me that you are not remembered for scoring the most goals or setting a new ­record, you are remembered for the trophies you win.

"We won the title at Inter Milan last season and the ­feeling of being a winner in the big competition is what I want again now at Chelsea."

Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel ­(inset above) needs to evaluate the best way to inject Lukaku into his team of Champions League winners and the path he follows will be crucial to the outcome of this season's title race.

Timo Werner's lack of goals last season was a major flaw, but Tuchel believes Lukaku's arrival opens a door for him to pick a more fluid forward line with Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic battling with Werner to start alongside Lukaku.

"With the addition of Romelu, we get the number-one striker and we want to have him on the pitch, this is very clear," said the Chelsea boss, who has hinted he will play two or three forward players on his line-up on a regular basis.

"If you do this kind of transfer, we are absolutely sure we want to have him on the pitch, but I think he will lift the pressure off the shoulders of the young guys, from Kai, Timo and Christian, because Romelu is the kind of personality who loves responsibility."

Chelsea's optimism is contrasted with Arsenal's pessimism ahead of their first home game of the season today, with boss Mikel Arteta under huge pressure already after a woeful performance in their defeat at Brentford last weekend.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Alexandre Lacazette and Willian all missed that game after positive Covid tests, with the first of that trio in line to return for Arsenal against Chelsea today.


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