Gary Cahill has insisted that Romelu Lukaku has attained a world-class footballing status since his departure from Chelsea and could make them pay in the finals of the FA Cup on Saturday.
Lukaku started just 1 league game for Chelsea after his move from Anderlecht in an £18m deal in 2011, before he left for Everton three years later in a £28m deal. The Belgian has gone on to carve a niche for himself in the Premier League, establishing himself as the fifth youngest player to reach a tally of 100 goals in the Premier League in April, and will be poised to ensure that Man United emerge victorious over Chelsea at Wembley this weekend.
“When he was here, he had talent but he was very young. He’s developed into a world-class striker so credit to him.
“Sometimes when you’re at a club like Chelsea you feel sorry when you see a player move on. Naturally some progress and some don’t, but you don’t hear about the ones that don’t.
“We all know it’s hard to have time to come in as a young player – maybe the club and the supporters give you seven, eight, nine games where you’re rusty and not performing. It’s difficult to do that.
“They’ve then gone on and developed elsewhere and he’s gone on to be a top player. I’ve played and trained against him loads of times and it’ll be difficult (on Saturday).”
Since his departure, Lukaku has scored against Chelsea, first, a brace for Everton as the Merseyside outfit knocked Chelsea out of the FA Cup in the quarter-final stage two years ago, and recently scored and provided the assist for the winner when Manchester United beat Chelsea 2:1 in February.
Cahill added: “Everyone can see his attributes: pace, power, strength and he can finish. His goal-scoring record is very good.
“But we’re not focusing on one player in their team. We’re respectful of the fact that they have numerous players who can turn a game on its head, as do we.”
When asked in triumph in the FA Cup final in Wembley would compensate for missing out on the Champions League, Cahill replied:
“I can only speak honestly for myself, maybe the club thinks differently. For myself it’s about winning competitions.
“We fell short in the other competitions but we’ve not fallen short in this one yet. We’re in the final against a good team, but it’s about winning trophies.
“Obviously we’re disappointed not to be in the Champions League, but if it were a choice between not qualifying for the Champions League for six-seven years and not winning anything, I’d definitely swap.”