Achievements earned at a startling pace and with enviable value have become bywords for Romelu Lukaku’s career.
The brawny Belgium centre forward has already scored 168 career goals, just a month after his 24th birthday. These efforts include a brace against Dutch luminaries Ajax aged 16 and when still sitting examinations.
He has struck at World Cups and European Championships. In club football, only Ronaldo, Raul, Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero notched more times by the age of 23 – and they were all playing for sides of far-superior standing to the likes of Everton and West Bromwich Albion.
Yet the true, unyielding consistency which has bolstered the arsenal of the game’s greatest strikers has unquestionably eluded him. To catapult his talent beyond merely burgeoning and be defined as an all-time great at imminent employers Manchester United, the attainment of this characteristic is key.
Denis ‘The King’ Law and Ruud van Nistelrooy possessed it. So too the Cristiano Ronaldo which emerged emboldened from the crisis of World Cup 2006, plus Eric Cantona and his five 1-0 wins at the back end of 1995/96 which secured the Premier League’s crown.
It will soon be up to Lukaku to prove he has both the skill and temperament to be held in such storied company.
Last term, a career-high 25 Premier League goals were notched in 37 appearances for the Toffees. But significant droughts existed.
The gaps were smaller than in previous campaigns, but manager Jose Mourinho, someone happy to permanently cast the colt aside when at Chelsea in July 2014, will not tolerate him going scoreless in four of the last five matches of the season.
These are games in which the Portuguese must hope his side are challenging for the title.
Scoring in just three of 11 fixtures between October 22-December 31 – for a total of four – also simply will not do for employers eager to find a definite fix for their debilitating chance-conversion rate.
This drop off was even starker at the end of 2015/16, when he failed to notch in the last 10 games as Roberto Martinez’s empire crumbled.
This lethargy has still slipped in during recent high-profile fixtures. April saw him be berated by Wales skipper Ashley Williams for a listless performance throughout a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford, while just one touch was recorded in the penalty box during the 3-1 derby capitulation at Liverpool.
Lukaku was tipped for greatness even as a schoolboy. Consistency is now key to achieving it on the grandest stage.
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