Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho backed Romelu Lukaku to push for a place in his first-team plans for the upcoming season, but has shied away from comparing the powerhouse Belgian striker to Blues legend Didier Drogba.
Lukaku impressed during a loan spell with West Bromwich Albion last season and has returned to Chelsea with a cloud over his future at the club, especially after Mourinho made a move for Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney.
Yet it seems as if Lukaku has impressed the returning Chelsea boss, with his displays on their tour of the Far East inspiring Mourinho to suggest he can push for a starting slot ahead of £50m Fernando Torres when the Premier League gets under way next month.
“Of course he can challenge Torres,” stated Mourinho after Lukaku scored in Chelsea’s 4-1 win against a Malaysia XI. “We don’t want the striker just aiming between the central defenders, but making movements, sometimes between midfield or moving wide. Lukaku is very open to learn the kind of movement we want.
“As for the Drogba comparisons? We have to respect them both. The best way to do that is not compare Lukaku to a legend. Leave Didier where he is, at the top of Chelsea’s history and leave Lukaku to work hard. The kid is good.”
Meanwhile, Mourinho has given Demba Ba hope that he has a future at the club, after promising to give the striker a start in the Blues next pre-season game on their Far East tour.
“The next match in Jakarta, Demba will start the game,” stated Mourinho. “Lukaku started these two and Demba will start in Jakarta. They are learning to play the way I want.”
Mourinho has stressed his side’s matches in the Far East are little more than training exercises, as he looks to get a better understanding of the players he has inherited after returning to Stamford Bridge last month.
“In this moment we are not worried with results, because winning is part of a team’s DNA,” added Mourinho. “The desire to respect your club and your fans, in this case in Asia, is part of our DNA and if we can win matches, we will win matches.
“Because training sessions are closed you cannot feel what we are transferring to the matches, but I can, and I see things on a defensive and attacking point of view that we are working on in training sessions. That’s important for me, for the players to trust the methodology.”
Mourinho offered no update on his bid for Rooney, after insisting he would not be drawn on the move for the England striker until Chelsea had a response from Manchester United.