Face of Flanders: Romelu Lukaku


The 24-year-old footballer from Antwerp is proving to be worth the price paid by Manchester United

Sorry, how fast?

There is a lot riding on Romelu Lukaku, who broke the transfer record between English clubs last month when he left Everton for Manchester United, who paid £75 million (€85 million). But if his explosive start to the season is anything to go by, the 24-year-old from Antwerp will have more than justified his price tag.

Lukaku scored four times in his first two Premier League games this month and looks like the missing piece of United’s jigsaw as the club aims to retake the title. Already friends with the club’s previous record-breaking transfer, French player Paul Pogba, as well as fellow Belgian (and ex-Evertonian) Marouane Fellaini, Lukaku has also gelled quickly with his strike partner Markus Rashford.

His arrival in Manchester is somewhat ironic: The coach is José Mourinho, who shipped him out of Chelsea shortly after he joined in 2011. But after a loan to West Bromwich Albion and a transfer to Everton, Lukaku has matured into one of the most coveted players in Europe.

Lukaku enjoyed an astonishing run at Everton, where he scored 68 Premier League goals over five years, netting 25 times last season. Lukaku has a football pedigree: His father, Roger Lukaku, played for Zaire, while his brother Jordan plays for Lazio in Italy. And his cousin Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo plays for Club Brugge.

He has come a long way since joining Rupel Boom aged just six, before moving to the KFC Wintam and Lierse youth sides. He transferred to Anderlecht at 12, making his first-team debut in 2009. He then became the youngest player to ever appear in the Champions League, when at 16 he played against Lyon in a qualification match.

His 2011 transfer to Chelsea promised much, but it proved too early (although Chelsea attempted to re-sign him this summer).

Lukaku’s physique is stunning: at 1.92m and 95kg he is the size of a basketball player, and few forwards can rival him in either power or precision. And he is quick: Lukaku has been clocked at 35 kilometres per hour, the fourth-fastest striker in the Premier League.

It makes him a different type of striker from what United have had for years: someone who can run in behind, be a battering ram and perform lightning counter-attacks. Fans are hoping he could help bring the title back to Old Trafford for the first time since 2013, Sir Alex Ferguson’s last year in charge.

Photo: Richard Sellers/Press Association/BELGA