World Cup crock Lukaku’s injury nightmare since joining Chelsea

Carlo Garganese
Carlo Garganese 23 Nov 2022 16:07 GMT 4 min read
Romelu Lukaku, Inter, 2022/23

Romelu Lukaku is at risk of not playing at all in the 2022 World Cup.

He has yet to start training with the Belgium national team in Qatar having still failed to recover from his latest thigh injury.

Lukaku will miss Belgium’s World Cup Group F opener against Canada on Wednesday and their second group game versus Morocco.

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He also faces a race against time, according to Sky Sport Italia, to make the final match of the group against Croatia on December 1.

By that time - or by the time the group stage is over - it is very possible Belgium are already out of the World Cup.

And even if they do progress to the last-16 Lukaku will be horribly short of match fitness.

He has played just 256 minutes of football this season, starting three games and appearing in only five matches in total. He has scored two goals this campaign.

His last appearance was 22 minutes as a substitute on October 29 against Sampdoria where he injured his thigh. He played seven minutes as a sub a few days earlier against Viktoria Plzen.

That was his comeback from injury after two months out.

Lukaku fitness problems

So even if he does get himself ‘fit’ for this World Cup, he will be short of his best.

But none of this comes as a surprise as Lukaku’s body has been breaking down ever since his €115 million transfer to Chelsea from Inter in the summer of 2021.

Until then, Lukaku was renowned for almost always being fit.

In fact, from 2013 to 2021 he missed just 28 games in eight years. He never missed more than five games in a row, with all of his physical problems just minor issues.

But the move to Chelsea – as well as proving a disaster in terms of on-field performance – also saw Lukaku decline notably from a physical point of view.

The 6ft 4in giant who both outmuscled and outpaced defenders suddenly appeared to lose those advantages – at least when it came to his speed and stamina.

And he also started to suffer more injuries. He missed more games for Chelsea in a six-week spell before Christmas 2021 than he did in his entire two-year first spell at Inter.

Lukaku declined physically at Chelsea

Lukaku declined physically at Chelsea

In total he was unfit for over two months as a Chelsea player. This no doubt contributed to him scoring just eight Premier League goals all season – a paltry return given his €115m transfer price.

The injury problems have continued since his loan return to Inter this past summer. He was out for 57 days with a hamstring injury from August 29 to October 25.

However, just days after marking his return with a goal as a substitute in the 4-0 win over Viktoria Plzen, Lukaku suffered a thigh problem. He did not play again following his seven-minute cameo versus Sampdoria before the World Cup break.

He was expected to be back in time for the World Cup, but will now miss at least the first two games in Qatar.

This is the last thing Belgium needed as this former golden team are ageing and look to be on the decline. Lukaku is a crucial part of their team but if he is not available or fit, then he can’t help them.