Man Utd’s Romelu Lukaku Is A Lot Brighter Than People Give Him Credit For

First off let me start by saying that there’s a difference between intelligence and footballing intelligence.

When people criticise Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku, I think it’s almost 100% that they are being critical of his thinking on the football pitch rather than his actual intellect.

Paul Merson stated:

“Romelu Lukaku is not bright enough to play alongside Eden Hazard and Cesc Fabregas”

Now the fact Lukaku has a better grasp of the English language than Merson, shows us that the former Arsenal and Middlesbrough playmaker was probably discussing the Belgian’s footballing nous.

In truth, Lukaku is a very smart individual. He knows various languages and moved to London as a teenager and didn’t let the bright lights of Britain’s capital turn his head. He’s extremely career focused and made some tough calls in order to help his own development.

Now in my option, Romelu Lukaku is also a smart footballer.

You don’t score the amount of goals that he has in his career if you aren’t clever at what you do. I should also point out that he scores a wide variety of different types of goals too, so he’s not just a one-trick pony.

At the age of twenty-four the hitman has already notched up 149 career club goals and he’s also scored 24 goals in 59 caps for his country (I should point out he plays alongside Hazard for Belgium).

Now you can have a lucky season and grab twenty in one campaign, but to do it consistently you need a footballing brain. In scoring a lot of goals you’re outfoxing opposing defenders and keepers, it’s not as if he’s hitting the ball with his eyes shut!

Sometimes people think it’s easy being a striker but in actual fact it’s one of the toughest jobs in football. That’s why teams fork out so much money for a consistent goalscorer. You should never underestimate what a goalscoring forward brings to a team.

As a true number nine, you are your team’s focal point. You have to offer runs that will see you receive the ball in dangerous areas. You have to out think opponents to find that vital bit of space in the penalty area and you have to possess great levels of concentration.

Lukaku offers all of these attributes and much more.

I remember when Everton demolished Arsenal in 2014. Then Toffees boss Roberto Martinez had stuck Lukaku out on the wing and he played a blinder.

Now the gaffer deserves praise for such tactical switches but it only works if the player is committed, disciplined and carries out the manager’s plan to the letter.

Lukaku’s strength and speed caused Arsenal endless problems and confused their defence. He also made intelligent runs that made space for fellow Everton forwards. The fact he was asked to play out there shows you that Martinez trusted him and knew he could handle playing out of position.

The striker has stated on a few occasions that he studies opposition teams and looks out for their weaknesses. That’s what a smart forward does, not one playing off the cuff.

When you hear the player talk, he’s all about improving and developing. He knows his weaknesses and that he still has time to perfect his game:

“I’m 24 years of age, I cannot say I am the complete package, I can’t say I’m in my prime.

“There is still a lot of work to be done and I am delighted there is still a lot of work to be done. That means I can become even better than I am now.”

For me, self-awareness is another sign that the goalscorer is bright and hungry to learn more about his craft. It’s that desire and thinking that means that even with his power he’s still not labelled as a typical target-man.

Another reason I think people decide that he’s not very intelligent on the park is because he sometimes has a lethargic style and might not do the defensive side of the game.

I counter that by stating that his main job is scoring goals, maybe he’s just saving his energy levels for the right time and opportunities. Being Scottish, I know all about strikers that run all day and that will throw themselves into challenges but these types of forwards don’t consistently score and win you football matches.

While I can appreciate good forwards that defend high up the field and press, it doesn’t mean that every striker should do the same. If your defence is relying on the main attacker to win the ball back then I’d be worried about my defence!

At Man United, Lukaku has already developed an understanding with Paul Pogba. Unintelligent players rarely strike up an understanding with any teammate. They’re incapable because they solely react to moments and don’t think through potential moves, passes or phases of play.

Now is Zlatan Ibrahimovic a smarter forward than Lukaku?

Indeed he is. But the Swede has more than ten years on Romelu. Many while praising his skill, would question Zlatan’s decision making and discipline when he was younger but it’s forgotten now as he’s matured into one of the games greats.

Like Lukaku, Zlatan sees opponents weaknesses and plays on them. Romelu is also smart enough to learn from Ibra and become a better player through his interactions with the Swedish superstar.

I think it’s safe to say that I think Romelu Lukaku is a smart forward. Football is all about opinions and some will disagree with mine but the proof will surely be in the pudding and the doubters can’t continually argue with the prolific strike rate, especially if the £75m man helps Man United win important trophies this season!

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