Romelu Lukaku stars for Man United as brother Jordan impresses at Lazio
Romelu Lukaku scored a brace on his Premier League debut at Old Trafford on Sunday, leading Manchester United to a 4-0 win over West Ham, but it was his brother who arguably made a more significant contribution that evening.
Jordan Lukaku became a hero of the Lazio fans, winning the Italian Super Cup in a dramatic final against Juventus.
He took to the field with 15 minutes remaining and Lazio ahead 2-0, but Paulo Dybala scored twice to make it 2-2. There was still time left for Lukaku, though. He produced an incredible run into the penalty area, made fun of Juventus' new defender Mattia De Sciglio and provided a magnificent assist for the winning goal by another young substitute, Alessandro Murgia.
That was a moment of class, and Lazio fans can now understand what Romelu meant when he praised his young brother a year ago.
"Technically, Jordan is better than me. He is quick and powerful on the left," the striker claimed.
Jordan was taken aback by the comments.
"Romelu should stop saying such things about me, because the expectations would be too high," he said.
And that is Jordan Lukaku's case in a nutshell. With Romelu making huge headlines at a young age, making his full debut for Anderlecht just a few days after his 16th birthday and being described as the greatest prospect of his generation, Jordan simply couldn't avoid comparisons. He has always been labelled Romelu's less-talented brother, and the burden was unbearable at times, especially because they are so different.
Romelu is known as a quiet, introverted person and a model professional. Jordan is the complete opposite. Steve de Buyser, the coach who worked with both brothers at FC Wintam, remembers: "Jordan can't stop talking, he is very impulsive. He is much more open than Romelu, and always says what he thinks."
Naturally, Jordan aspired to be different in every way. He grew long dreadlocks in order not to look like his brother. He might have started as a striker, but soon decided a change was needed because he couldn't come close to Romelu's skills in front of goal. He switched to the wing, and then moved further back and became a defender.
And yet, even in his new role he couldn't escape Romelu's shadow. Jordan was never too disciplined as a kid, and that was more noticeable because of his brilliant brother.
His behaviour at Anderlecht was not exemplary, to put it mildly. He was fined for speeding in his car, and liked barbecuing so much that significant damage was done to his apartment. The club even later took him to court in order to get €17,000 of compensation for the ruined property.
Such a reputation was damaging for his career. Milan were close to signing him in 2013, while Arsenal and Tottenham also showed interest. Moving to Arsene Wenger's team would have been a dream come true for the Belgian, who has always supported the Gunners, but nothing materialised.
"I was catalogued as a boy who is not professional enough," he later recalled with disappointment. Instead of getting transferred to a top club, the younger Lukaku joined modest Oostende in 2013.
Initially, Anderlecht loaned him out, but a year later the move was made permanent. The Brussels giants clearly didn't expect Jordan to shine, but they were wrong. Lukaku's second season at Oostende was decent, and the third -- under the guidance of former Belgium midfielder Yves Vanderhaeghe -- proved to be excellent in 2015-16.
The unfashionable outfit led the table for long stretches and surprised the country by qualifying for the championship playoffs. Jordan was given freedom to roam forward on the left and flourished. National team coach Marc Wilmots took notice, not least because Romelu advised him to, and the brothers were glad to play together for the Red Devils.
The debut was sensational. Jordan was introduced in the second half of a friendly in Portugal, and within three minutes burst on the left to provide a sublime assist to Romelu. The whole country was excited to see the brothers' joy, and both made the squad for Euro 2016, even though Jordan was just a reserve.
His time came in the quarterfinals because Jan Vertonghen was injured, and that wasn't a happy experience as heavy favourites Belgium were sensationally beaten by Wales. Lukaku later criticised Wilmots and claimed the team wasn't smart tactically.
"If you are badly prepared, it is tough to win. There were no proper preparations. I was given no defensive instructions at all. In the attack, I was just told to give the ball to Eden Hazard," he said.
The fiasco against Chris Coleman's side showed Lukaku he needed to make significant progress tactically, and that is one of the reasons he was thrilled to join Lazio. The Romans were impressed enough to pay €3 million for his services a year ago, although the first months in Serie A were quite difficult.
"I wasn't educated tactically, because they don't pay attention to that in Belgium," Lukaku said, somewhat controversially, in May, "Here in Italy they teach you a lot. I am a totally different player now."
It remains to be seen whether that is enough to cement his place in the lineup. Lukaku started only 11 games in all competitions last season, but this term could be different, especially because he has a chance to prove his attacking instincts as a wing-back in the 3-5-2 system.
The phenomenal run on Sunday won over many Lazio supporters, and at 23 it is time to build on that momentum and prove there is more than one top class Lukaku in European football.
Michael Yokhin is ESPN FC's European football writer. Follow him on Twitter: @Yokhin