On Wednesday night, on one of the biggest stages in world football, Romelu Menama Lukaku Bolingoli proved to his critics, racist media, his teammates, PSG's entire squad, and himself, that he is one of the best strikers in the game.
Manchester United were heavy underdogs heading into the second leg of their Champions League round of 16 matchup, trailing Paris Saint-Germain 2-0 on aggregate following the French champions' confident performance at Old Trafford a week prior.
Not many would have given the Red Devils a chance. Granted, some of United's playing staff looked understandably nervous in the early stages of the game - after all, the Premier League outfit were dealing with an injury list more extensive than Neymar's tattoo collection.
But not Lukaku.
The Belgian brilliantly intercepted a wayward backpass in the second minute of action, cooly rounded Gianluigi Buffon and calmly slotted home from a tricky angle when many other forwards would have bottled it.
His goal so early in the match gave United life, and even after PSG equalised 10 minutes later, Lukaku did not despair. He scored again in the 30th minute to restore United's lead, and Marcus Rashford's late, late penalty completed an unlikely Champions League victory that was primarily inspired by the United's number 9 endeavour and belief.
In the process, Lukaku managed to shut up a whole host of misinformed, opportunistic haters who love nothing more than to sh*t on big stars when they sniff an opportunity - no matter how small.
Journalist Philippe Auclair outlined this perfectly in his recent piece, explaining how terms used to describe Lukaku - as a 'powerful' and 'athletic' - do him a disservice, and purposely ignore his other qualities that separate him from other 'powerful' forwards in the game because he is black. Similar is the way N'Golo Kante is praised for his 'endurance' and 'physicality' - as if these are the only qualities that made him Footballer of the Year in England, not to mention a World Champion.
Lukaku proved this on Wednesday night - as mentioned previously, his first goal displayed the close ball control and calmness that pundits always seem to overlook, instead thinking that he's simply a blunt instrument when in truth he's a far more sleek and effective finisher.
Sure, earlier this season the Belgian might have undergone somewhat of a blip, as he failed to score in six games.
But people seemed to have forgotten his World Cup exploits from just a summer ago, where he scored four goals and added an assist as Les Diables Rouges finished third, knocking out Brazil en route to making the semi-finals.
Lukaku, for his part, addressed the racist media prior to United's match with PSG - that same media that has consistently targeted players of colour, most notably Raheem Sterling - telling the Daily Express: "That’s why I don’t give media, some media, not my attention or even a look. I know sometimes I pay the price but I don’t care. Even one reporter said: 'Thank God the mother of Romelu Lukaku didn’t have a third child.' Can you imagine?!
"I’m not gonna kiss someone's ass to be loved. It depends which newspaper, though. There is one newspaper which everybody reads that they’re like, you can say, ‘you are all racists’, you all know who you are."
In his last 177 minutes of competitive football, Lukaku has scored six goals. This season, he has 15 goals and four assists for Manchester United. In fact, over the course of his career, he has 194 goals and 69 assists - proving that he is much more than a 'big, physical target man.' A point we would all do well to remember.
Source : 90min