By Ryan Fleming
The soccer world is ever-changing. We know that. Players are attracted largely by money, but their decisions, sometimes rash, are also aided by the chance to win a trophies and an opportunity to play in Europe. When all the factors go as planned, the ultimate dream of many is fulfilled – to play for their country.
Too often players who aren’t even old enough to drink (in the U.S. the legal age is 21) leave their native country in search of the glory that could be found elsewhere in England, Spain and Germany – to name a few countries. Players are scouted at young ages, join youth academies, or play for small-time clubs in their domestic league.
Romelu Lukaku promised something to Anderlecht, the Belgian club that he currently plays for, a decision that many shunned before him. Statements given by players, need to be taken lightly (see the Carlos Tevez situation). But for now, the 17-year-old decided he’s going to stay and play for Anderlecht for at least another year until he finishes his studies in Belgium.
There are two things you notice about this young man right off the bat. The first being that his priorities aren’t mixed up. While being tracked by big name clubs like Tottenham and Real Madrid, Lukaku will continue to play in Belgium, and while he’s there, maintain Anderlecht’s relevance.
Second, even if nearly impossible, Anderlecht should do its best in keeping him at the club or at least in Belgium. If Lukaku left in January this would be a an exact blue print on how to decline the status of a league already struggling to remain noticeable. All too often, star players who play in their domestic league leave too soon without seemingly thinking about the decision.
Players nowadays, and not just in soccer, seem to have lost why many started playing the game – for the love of it.
Lukaku needs to know what it is to win. Right now, only one point off the Jupiler League leader, Racing Genk, Lukaku will welcome that feeling come mid May if Anderlecht can overcome Genk. He will then be introduced to European football and an ocean of learning will await this already star-studded talent.
It’s a unique position and the youngster is fortunate to find himself in it. It has yet to be seen, if like so many, he’ll leave a small-time club for big-time money and fame. As for now, all signs point to no, but reality is directing it to yes.
Ryan Fleming can be reached at email@example.com.