x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

The 'new Drogba' keeping his feet on the ground

With his braided hair, the 16-year-old Romelu Lukaku has his looks but so too the physical appearance and potentially the ability.

Romelu Lukaku has said he will not leave Anderlecht until he is at least 20. But it is hard to imagine Europe's top clubs waiting four more years before they try to tempt the striker away from Belgium. With his braided hair, the 16-year-old has the look of Didier Drogba, but so too the physical appearance and potentially the ability. It is no wonder Chelsea see Lukaku as a long-term successor to their current attacking spearhead. Yet Barcelona, Real Madrid and the two Milan clubs are interested too.

Lukaku, born in Antwerp, but of Congolese descent, had his reputation enhanced when Dick Advocaat gave him his national team debut against Croatia last week. Yet he will not be swayed by all the attention and has vowed to finish his school diploma while at his current club. "I have to keep a cool head, which isn't always easy given the circumstances," he has said. "I will not change the way I am."

Lukaku will be in the spotlight again tonight when Anderlecht visit Hamburg in the last 16 of the Europa League. And he has already made an impression on Ruud van Nistelrooy. "I last saw him taking off his shirt," said the Dutch striker, who will be on the opposing side at the Nordbank Arena. "When I was 16, I had no muscles. You see already he can make a difference in games." That is something Van Nistelrooy has done throughout his career. At 33, he embarked on a new adventure with Hamburg in January, after leaving Real Madrid. A thigh strain has restricted his appearances to three, but he has contributed two goals.

He said: "My career isn't nearing its end just yet. I would prefer to play always. I am like a kid in that respect and you've just got to stop me." akhan@thenational.ae