He may have overlooked him for almost the entire season at Chelsea, but Andre Villas-Boas is convinced that Romelu Lukaku is ready to take the Barclays Premier League by storm with West Brom this season.
Lukaku arrived at Stamford Bridge last summer with high expectations following his £18 million (€22.7m) transfer from Anderlecht, but Villas-Boas snubbed the 19-year-old nearly all season.
Lukaku made just three starts under the Portuguese — all in the League Cup — and had to wait until after Villas-Boas was sacked before he began a Premier League game for the Blues.
The big striker has started this season with a bang, however. Lukaku came off the bench to score for Belgium against Holland last week and then found the net on his West Brom debut against Liverpool.
Lukaku is likely to line up for Albion against Villas-Boas’ Tottenham today, as the home side look to make up for an opening-day loss at Newcastle, and the former Chelsea manager is convinced the Belgian can make waves at the midlands club, where he is on a season-long loan.
“I think he is ready,” Villas-Boas said. “He is obviously a player with tremendous talent that competed last year against two of the world’s best players at Chelsea.
“Lukaku had frustrations last year that you can understand. It’s up to him to compete but when you compete against Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba, the job is difficult.
“Had he overtaken those two to be on team selection every weekend it would have been a tremendous achievement for a 19-year-old.”
Another familiar face Villas-Boas will run into today is Baggies manager Steve Clarke, with whom he worked under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea.
Like Villas-Boas, Clarke has moved from the backroom staff to be a manager in his own right, and he started his tenure at The Hawthorns with a highly-impressive 3-0 defeat of Liverpool.
“Steve has taken his steps very wisely and I’m happy he has achieved his ambition of becoming a manager,” Villas-Boas said. “I respect him a lot because he took those steps very sensibly.”
Clarke is confident his side can prove the win over Liverpool was no fluke. “I’ve got a good group of players who are really experienced, going to White Hart Lane won’t hold any fear for them.”
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