Romelu Lukaku has revealed how he used the setbacks from his first spell at Chelsea to help turn himself into the world-beating striker he is today.
A boyhood Chelsea fan, Lukaku moved to Stamford Bridge from Anderlecht in 2011 but only managed 15 appearances across two seasons, in which he failed to score, and was instead farmed out on loan to West Brom and Everton.
After excelling with the latter, Lukaku earned himself moves to Manchester United and Inter, before landing back at Chelsea this summer in a club-record £97.5m move.
“It was painful and helpful, but I would say more helpful because it gave me the mentality and the mindset that I needed to become the player I am today,” said Lukaku (via the club’s official website). “The team was very good but nobody saw the extra work they did after the training sessions. As an 18-year-old, I saw first-hand every day how much the players worked on their craft.
“That’s when I knew that was what you had to do to become this type of player. I told myself ‘when I’m not playing, this is what I’m going to do’ and it basically just became a lifestyle.”
Lukaku then insisted that he always knew he would be good enough to return to Chelsea one day, admitting he was just waiting for the right moment to do so.
“I knew I would improve as a player so it was just about timing,” he continued. “I had two opportunities to come back, in 2016 and 2017, but it didn’t happen for various reasons.
“In the end, it happened because now is the right time, the right age, the team is doing well and everything is there for it to be successful.”
With three goals in his first six Premier League outings, Lukaku has enjoyed an impressive start to his second spell at Stamford Bridge and he puts that down to figuring out how to be a winner during his time with Inter.
“I’m much more calm,” he said. “I’ve matured with fatherhood and I’m more laidback. After winning in Italy and knowing what it takes to get there, that really helped me. In the last three years, I’ve been able to build something that I can take on for the rest of my career.
“It can be complicated but when you really set your mind to do something and you really dedicate everything that you have to that goal, you can achieve it. I recognised my little qualities and talent but I also knew what I was not good at and I really spent a lot of time working on those attributes to be the complete package.
“Now, it feels good. I’m very happy with the opportunity and we’ve started really well as a team. My team-mates have made life very easy for me and the coach is doing a great job. Our performances have been good but we’re always looking for the next challenge.”