IIt took five years and six attempts, but Romelu Lukaku finally managed a first victory over Cristiano Ronaldo last season.
It was a moment for Lukaku to savor at the San Siro after winning against one of his idols. He was trying to move the Juventus Scudetto forward, but there was a deep appreciation for him, to the point that he pleaded his case during a debate between Messi and Ronaldo among friends.
Lukaku is no different from other forwards at the top of the European scorer rankings, concerned about who is the real deal. One phrase that pops up is a “stat-padder”, borrowed from American sport, where a player boosts his stats with goals that make little sense in games.
Ronaldo is not a stat-padder. Great performances, important goals on the highest stage. The consolation sentences matter little to him.
It is by this standard that Lukaku wants to be measured in a career where questions have been asked about whether he is in the upper range of attackers. His confidence has fluctuated, but he’s heading into today’s Euro round of 16 game against Portugal and Ronaldo as a player with healthy arrogance as to where his game is.
Ronaldo will start the draw at La Cartuja in Sevilla with a goal to overtake Ali Daei and become the all-time top international scorer, with Lukaku among the few players with a chance to catch him.
In fact, Lukaku’s record compares favorably with 63 goals in 96 caps. Ronaldo had scored 36 goals after the same number of internationals, although his goal rate since has been superhuman.
Despite being Belgium’s top scorer, Lukaku has had a difficult relationship with his supporters. He was taunted for bad duds and expressed his frustration ahead of the last World Cup, when asked about his brother’s comments about the country’s most prolific player not receiving the credit he deserved. “Maybe he’s right,” Lukaku said.
“When things were going well I would read newspaper articles and they would call me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker,” he wrote in the Players’ Tribune. “When things weren’t going well, they called me Romelu Lukaku, the Belgian striker of Congolese origin.”
By Mike McGrath