On Saturday Romelu Lukaku will be hoping to join an elite club.
The Everton marksman will line up against Aston Villa at Goodison Park knowing one more goal will mean he joins an illustrious group who have scored 50 Premier League goals before their 23rd birthday.
The four men who have managed that feat are: Robbie Fowler (20 years 251 days), Michael Owen (22 years 255 days), Wayne Rooney (21 years 54 days) and Cristiano Ronaldo (22 years 340 days).
Looking at that quartet alone tells you it’s an achievement that should not be ignored. And the 22-year-old Lukaku is not out of place because he is proving already that he is the real deal.
His stats this season are impressive with nine goals in 17 appearances for club and country and numerous displays which have sparked the attention of some of Europe’s big spenders.
Manchester United were reportedly tracking the big Belgian in the summer, while more recently PSG have been linked with a move for the striker whom they see being the focal point of their attack as they bid to make a concerted bid to challenge in the Champions League.
Still, his time at Goodison has not been all plain sailing and the youngster – and it’s hard to believe he’s not 23 until May next year – has had to deal with his fair share of critics.
Since making a club-record £28million move to Everton from Chelsea in the summer of 2014, Lukaku has been continually used as a pawn in the justification of Jose Mourinho’s transfer business.
‘Mourinho right to sell Lukaku’. It’s a headline we’ve been subjected to for the last 18 months or so, but in truth, Lukaku is his own man, he made the bold decision to leave Stamford Bridge as a raw 21-year-old and he’s now reaping the benefits and has become adored by the Gwladys Street Stand faithful.
He arrived at the Bridge from Anderlecht as rookie, albeit an £18million rookie, and was immediately seen as the club’s next Didier Drogba. It was a tough act to follow for the Antwerp-born striker and he made only 10 appearances for Chelsea, failing to score and was sent on loan to West Brom and Everton, before he eventually signed for Robert Martinez after revealing he felt loved on Merseyside.
And Mourinho fired somewhat of a parting shot at Lukaku when he left in July 2014.
He said: ‘The thinking was first of all the fact that Romelu was always very clear with us that in his mentality and his approach he was not highly motivated to come to a competitive situation at Chelsea.
“He wanted to play for Chelsea but clearly as the first choice striker which in club of our dimension very difficult to promise to a player that status. That reduced, immediately, his desire to come to us.”
Lukaku, though, as ever, was cool in his response and claimed: “I want to develop and become one of the best and the manager wants to make our team one of the best teams in England.
“So to me it was a great challenge to play under him. I need to play at a high level and play in a good team. I’m not saying Chelsea are not a good team but I needed to be in a place where it felt right.
“I have the trust of the supporters. I can grow. I can develop. It almost feels that I belong here. That’s why I came back.”
Lukaku scored 19 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions during his initial loan spell at Goodison in 2013/14, and last term, in his so-called season of struggle, he managed 20 in 52 games in all competitions – hardly the record of a striker ruing his decision to leave Mourinho behind.
Mourinho did try and dispel the Lukaku narrative in February this year when he said: “No, he doesn’t have a point to prove. I think he proves every weekend that he’s a good player.
“We don’t sell garbage. We sell top players.”
For Lukaku though his time at Chelsea is long gone and if he maintains the rate of improvement he has shown to date then he will go on to display his talents on a bigger stage, but whether he’ll be adored as much as he is at Goodison is debatable.