Romelu Lukaku - "The Belgian of Congolese descent"

Romelu Lukaku of Manchester United applauds the travelling fans after the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester United at Turf Moor on September 2, 2018 in Burnley, United Kingdom.  (Sept. 1, 2018 - Source: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe)

Romelu Lukaku of Manchester United applauds the travelling fans after the Premier League match between Burnley FC and Manchester United at Turf Moor on September 2, 2018 in Burnley, United Kingdom.

(Sept. 1, 2018 - Source: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images Europe)

Some call him the Belgian Beast and at a local watch party during the 2018 FIFA World Cup semi-final against Brazil, an ecstatic Manchester United fan from the crowd shouted, “Cristiano” Lukaku! The 25-year-old Manchester United forward had outpaced Paulinho and dribbled past Fernandinho to assist Kevin De Bruyne for Belgium’s second goal as they stormed into the semi-finals after beating the Samba boys 2-1 in a thoroughly entertaining match-up. This was a few days after Romelu Lukaku had pulled off a world class dummy to allow Nacer Chadli to steal a third goal for the Red Devils as they remarkably came back from 2 goals down against Japan to get passage into the quarter-finals. The year 2018 became one of the highlights for the forward’s outstanding career, but what other juicy details are there to it?


Football with a purpose

Speaking to the Players’ Tribune, Romelu reminisced of his tough childhood , highlighting that he had made up his mind a schoolboy to lift his mother and family out of poverty by kicking the ball as hard as he could. The 25-year-old was born in Antwerp, Belgium to a Congolese mother and a father who played football and represented Zaire (present day DR Congo) at international level

I kept my promise to myself for a while. But then some days I’d come home from school and find my mum crying. So I finally told her one day, “Mum, it’s gonna change. You’ll see. I’m going to play football for Anderlecht, and it’s going to happen soon. We’ll be good. You won’t have to worry anymore.” I was six.
— Romelu Lukaku, Manchester United & Belgium Forward

He grew up a more than determined kid, playing the game he loved for with a purpose most dearest to him. That was, giving his mother a better life. Fast forward a few years, it all went out as Rom had envisioned. He weathered all there was to brave, even recalling the tough times where criticisms flew in left, right and center during dry periods that are common to most football players. Even racially inspired critics would also say their piece:

When things were going well, I was reading newspapers articles and they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker. When things weren’t going well, they were calling me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker of Congolese descent.
— Romelu Lukaku - Belgium's Record Goal Scorer

With the kind of scrutiny that Mourinho and Manchester United are currently experiencing, Lukaku is one such player who would probably not flinch in all these times.

Giorgio Chiellini of Italy (L) and Lukaku of Belgium compete for the ball during the intermational friendly match between Belgium and Italy at King Baudouin Stadium on November 13, 2015 in Brussels, Belgium.  (Nov. 12, 2015 - Source: Claudio Villa/Getty Images Europe)

Giorgio Chiellini of Italy (L) and Lukaku of Belgium compete for the ball during the intermational friendly match between Belgium and Italy at King Baudouin Stadium on November 13, 2015 in Brussels, Belgium.

(Nov. 12, 2015 - Source: Claudio Villa/Getty Images Europe)

Pure grit

I remember not being Lukaku’s biggest fan when he signed for Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United for a fee reported to be £75 million, plus £15 million in add-ons. I have always thought that his services were overpriced and perhaps they are. One thing is for sure though, you cannot take anything away from the forward’s strong mental fortitude, physicality and grit. He may not be the most talented footballer but gets what he sets out to, on the field of play. On his way to become a professional footballer, he always mashed up the goals and putting on record, some weird numbers. From 2004-06, Romelu scored 121 goals in 68 matches for Belgian Pro League club called Lierse before banging 131 goals in 93 matches for Anderlecht’s youth academy. He also became the fifth youngest player to reach 100 English Premier League goals and also one of only five players to have scored 50 premier league goals before their 23rd birthday.

An evolving footballer

Belgium players celebrate after Fernandinho of Brazil scores an own goal for their sides first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Quarter Final match between Brazil and Belgium at Kazan Arena on July 6, 2018 in Kazan, Russia.  (July 5, 2018 - Source: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Europe)

Belgium players celebrate after Fernandinho of Brazil scores an own goal for their sides first goal during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Quarter Final match between Brazil and Belgium at Kazan Arena on July 6, 2018 in Kazan, Russia.

(July 5, 2018 - Source: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images Europe)

The Belgian forward is one such a player we have seen add new dimensions to his game from time to time. Popularly known for having a bad first touch by fans who don’t like him the most, displays such as the ones narrated above of dummies and dribbling past players have recently become more established in Lukaku’s game. His physical strength that is often likened to that of an ox, pace and power together with bits of finishing “tools” learnt from Thierry Henry during his tenure as Belgium’s striker coach could surely, slowly lead him to emulate his boyhood hero,the Brazilian Ronaldo. The former “marksman” that Lukaku often watches on YouTube.

Belgian Legend

The Belgian striker of Congolese descent has become the Belgian legend at only 25 years of age. He has since surpassed the previously held record of all time record goals by a single player for the Red Devils which was 31. Lukaku has 45 record international goals to his name and still counting. He has represented his country at the 2014 world cup, Euro 2016 and the 2018 FIFA world cup in Russia. Even money has since started following the forward, becoming the first English Premier League player to sign for Jay-Z’s management sports agency called Roc Nation Sports and also signed a record sponsorship deal with Puma, the largest endorsement deal the Germany company has over offered.

Mama, Romelu Menama Lukaku Bolingoli, made it!