Ever since bursting onto the scene at Anderlecht, the name Romelu Lukaku has been synonymous with unbridled potential.
The powerful Belgian striker has consistently been named as one of Europe’s most promising players over recent years – but something is about to change.
Instead of being a youngster with the ability to be a star, the time has come for Lukaku to live up to his burgeoning reputation on the biggest stage.
The next 12 months will surely see the 20-year-old no longer be regarded as a prospect, but a centre forward that is starting to make an impact for a major club, his country and be fighting for honours.
The gifted forward’s goalscoring form for Anderlecht earned him the move to Chelsea, despite plenty of other major European clubs keeping tabs on his swift progress.
However, since his move to Stamford Bridge he has not been given a consistent chance, despite plenty of false dawns predicting that it would be his time to take centre stage for the west Londoners.
Despite signing for the Blues in August 2011, Lukaku has only started one Premier League fixture for the side.
Lukaku has proven himself at other Premier League clubs, with his 17 Premier League goals in 2012-13 something that West Brom have struggled to replace this term.
The Belgian has made Everton a more clinical side this season and provided the central figure that the Merseysiders have needed to develop into serious top-four candidates.
Although the management of Roberto Martínez will quite rightly be largely touted as the reason for an upturn in fortunes for the Goodison Park club, Everton would not be in their current advantageous position without Lukaku’s presence – or his 13 league goals to date.
With Chelsea crying out for a dominant, deadly and destructive centre forward, surely now must be the time for Lukaku. If for some unexplained reason José Mourinho opts not to bring him back into the fold, he will surely to sold to another club that will ply their trade in the Champions League next season.
Although Lukaku’s domestic exploits have been mightily impressive, to play in European football’s top tournament is a necessity next term for his development – whether it is at Chelsea or another club.
To hazard a guess at his current market value is exceptionally difficult, but whatever it is, if Chelsea are selling, any viable suitor would be advised to stump it up – and quick.
With Chelsea looking to make as much money from their fringe forward as possible if they sell him, Lukaku’s transfer fee could well be set to jump up considerably after this summer’s World Cup.
Christian Benteke has cruelly been robbed of his chance to star in Brazil, which will give Lukaku a green light to lead the line for an immensely talented Belgium side in a favourable group this summer.
Just how far the central European nation can go is yet to be determined, but the World Cup will give Lukaku a chance to prove himself on the biggest stage. With a fantastic supply chain providing chances to him in a dominant team, the burly frontman has the opportunity to become a world-renowned star.
It is decidedly likely that checking in on Lukaku in 12 months time will see him playing regularly for a Champions League team and having the experience of a World Cup under his belt.
No longer will the youngster be a prospect; he will be one of Europe’s most feared strikers.
Although it will be much too premature to name him as the finished article, his progression will surely take a step or two in the right direction over the course of the next year.