Everton striker Romelu Lukaku says he knows what he needs to do get to the level that Sergio Aguero, Luis Suarez and other great forwards in the world game.
In a comprehensive Q&A-styled interview with Sky Sports’ Thierry Henry, he talked to the former Arsenal, Juventus and Barcelona player about his motivations, his current form and what he would like to achieve. Henry is also Belgium’s assistant manager under Roberto Martinez, where Lukaku will be heading after tonight’s game when the international break commences.
| When @ThierryHenry met @RomeluLukaku9...Pictures courtesy of @SkySports, where you can also watch tonight's game live. pic.twitter.com/90EbaYJu7z— Everton (@Everton) September 30, 2016
Henry: It wasn't a secret that you nearly left the club - I found myself in that situation at Arsenal - and you stayed, so I want to ask you how influential was [Everton boss] Ronald Koeman, or did you stay because you loved the club?
Lukaku: I had a moment of reflection - for a week in pre-season - to see how the manager works and see what he sees in me as a player. I'm young and there are aspects of my game I need to improve. He worked with me on it from day one and I was convinced he was a man that can have a big influence on my future.
Henry: What would you say is the biggest difference between the boss you had before [Roberto Martinez] and Koeman, in terms of how he wants you to play?
Lukaku: With Mr Martinez I had a lot of freedom to express myself on the pitch. The second year he wanted me to play more as a target man and that's something that has never been in my game, because my pace and running in behind is my strongest point.
But I learned it, and then the third year, for seven months I was unstoppable in the league, there was no way someone could hold me. But the last three months of the season, my level dipped and the team's level dipped and it was sad how it ended with the former manager.
With Mr Koeman it's a change, it's different. I know that if I don't do what he wants me to on the pitch, I can go on the bench straight away. He keeps me very sharp and focused in the training sessions and throughout the games which is going to help me.
Henry: What do you think you are missing right now? It might be a bit harsh, your goal ratio is good and I like to remind people that you're only 23, but what do you think you're missing to make the level of Luis Suarez?
Lukaku: More match-winning performances. For a striker of my ability I score the goals that I score, but I need to create goals. The likes of Sergio Aguero, Suarez, Karim Benzema, Robert Lewandowski, they can create a goal out of nowhere and that's the thing that I need to do.
In training I'm with the manager trying to put in situations like that so it becomes more natural. I have it in my locker but it needs to come out more.
Henry: Now I can talk to you and see you closely in training. Don't take it the wrong way, I didn't think you that were a guy like that, the way you study the game and want to be better.
Can you tell us more about it? Because sometimes people have the wrong impression of footballers, and you're one of the guys who should speak more about it because you actually try and do the right things to get better.
Lukaku: I live, eat, breathe football 24/7, and every time off I have I try to spend it on aspects to improve my game. At home I have a lot of clips on my computer, of different types of strikers, and I spend hours and hours and hours watching it.
You, Ronaldo, Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto'o, Fernando Torres. I try to see the strongest points from you guys and where I can pick a little bit and work it into my training.
It takes a lot of time, but if I can have the same career that one of you guys had, then I would be very proud of myself. I have a love for the game, I love watching, studying and working hard, and if you have that inside of you the rest comes naturally and it's easy to learn something different.
Henry: Wow, that's impressive. It was refreshing for me to see how you were. As you know I like to challenge you, do you think one day you're going to be top goalscorer in this league?
Lukaku: Yes, 100 per cent.
Henry: Why is that?
Lukaku: I think with a bit more consistency last season, I would have been top goalscorer.
Henry: Last year you think you could have done that?
Lukaku: Yes, 100 per cent.
Henry: So what happened?
Lukaku: I lost consistency at the end of the season. I let it slip in the last few months.
Henry: Honesty. It's very good.
Lukaku: It's honesty, it's football, you know. Sometimes you have to face yourself in the mirror and say how it is. For seven months I was up there, who was better than me in the league?
Henry: At that particular moment, I guess no one.
Lukaku: No one. You have to face the facts that I let it slip.
Every game I have to go out there and play as hard as I can. Maybe there's some kid in the stand who wants to see me play, he doesn't care if I'm sore or sick.
I have to give my all on the pitch, and that's something on my mind right now, that every game I have to play at the maximum, to help my team win but also for myself, to maximise my potential because it has to come out at some point. I'm 23, I know that I have not much more time.
Henry: Would you say that it's time?
Lukaku: It's time.
Henry: Do you think that you can score, out of 38 games, in 27 of them?
Henry: That was less of a yeah than the one before…
Lukaku: Yeah because you know if you move well, you get chances all the time. In this league, if you're clever with your brain and if your movement is good then you get a chance every single game, and when you get the chances, it's all down to you.
Henry: Okay... but if you don't move well, and the team is not in possession, you're struggling, haven't touched the ball for 15 minutes, you're losing, things are not going your way. Can you score?
Lukaku: Yeah, because I did it plenty of times last season. I've done it loads of times in my career when I wasn't in the game but that one ball has fallen and that defender is unlucky he didn't mark me. Goal.
Henry: I'm not talking about that goal, I'm talking about the goal when the ball didn't even come to you. Can you go and get it?
Lukaku: Yeah. Because I put the work in to do it and I believe that I can. If I put the work in on something, I'm not scared to perform it at the weekend.
I've failed it many times in training, but I've performed it many times as well, so why can't I do that. I'm never scared when I go on the pitch, because I know what I'm doing. If it's a goal, perfect, if not, then I'm going to try again at the next opportunity.
Some interesting comments from Lukaku here, and the work ethic instilled by Koeman in the side has really been showing itself in his play as well. We have seen Lukaku dropping deeper to come and get the ball when he is not being supplied. We’ve also noticed him doing a better job holding up play to involve more of his teammates lately.
Just like with Koeman, Everton probably do not have Lukaku for too much longer, but in that time he is well-capable of propelling us up the table to a European football spot and that is about the least we can hope for.