No, I’m not apologizing for anything I wrote about Romelu Lukaku two weeks ago. I stand by everything I wrote there. He’s the top tier II striker in the world and nothing more than that.
I owe Lukaku an apology because yesterday I called him a rich man’s Jozy Altidore. I didn’t realize how insulting that was.
Lukaku and Altidore have some similarities. They both bursted onto the scene as quick young strikers. They bulked up and became great at using their bodies to hold play up. Despite being big “physical” strikers, defenders who get physical with them have no problem marking them out of a game. Both players have awful first touches.
That’s about where the similarities end.
Jozy Altidore is significantly worse than Romelu Lukaku. He may be the best striker the USMNT has right now, but don’t let that confuse you into thinking that makes him a good striker.
Altidore’s 41 international goals is good enough for third all time for a US international, but we know those numbers lie. 18 of those goals have come in friendlies. Of the 18 goals he scored against the minnows of CONCACAF in World Cup qualifying, only three came outside the United States (one was a penalty).
The last time Altidore scored a goal from open play outside the US was over years ago.
Since Altidore made his debut in 2008, the US has participated in five Gold Cup, the Confederations Cup, two World Cups, and the Copa America. He’s played just 28 of those games.
In 28 tournament games Altidore has scored a grand total of five goals. He scored against Spain in the 2009 Confederations Cup (that’s a good one!) but the rest have come against Canada, Guadeloupe, and then when Bruce Arena used his A team agains the B slash C teams of Costa Rica and Jamaica. Hardly the toughest competition there.
Like most players in the first team Altidore was left off the 2009 and 2013 Gold Cups. He played less than 20 minutes of the 2014 World Cup before picking up an injury. He missed the 2016 Copa America with an injury. He missed the semi-finals and final of the 2011 Gold Cup with an injury and was sent home from the 2015 Gold Cup after the group stage because he hadn’t recovered from a previous injury.
The only time he’s made it to the end of the Gold Cup was when Bruce Arena called him in after the group stage. Not only is he bad, he’s unreliable.
Compare that to Big Rom. Lukaku has 46 international goals in 29 fewer games. Yes 21 of those goals came in friendlies. Yes he disappears against bigger teams and runs up his total against minnows. I did say there were similarities.
Overall the quality of teams Lukaku faces in qualifying or regional tournaments is much higher than Altidore. For every Luxembourg he faces there’s also mid tier teams like Greece and Ireland as well as big guns like Germany and Italy.
Meanwhile in CONCACAF Altidore faces Guadeloupe, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama. The “tough” teams are Costa Rica and Mexico.
Most importantly Lukaku scores when it matters. He has seven goals in 15 games at the World Cup and Euros. Yes, his World Cup goals came against Panama, Tunisia, and the United States but that just goes to show you that when he gets a chance to face CONCACAF teams, he doesn’t waste it.
At the Euros he bagged a brace against Ireland. If Ireland doesn’t sound that frightful to you just remember that the US has played them twice in the last four years. The Irish won 4-1 and 2-1.
There’s no doubt that Lukaku’s international numbers are strongly influenced by him playing alongside Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne. Again, he’s not nearly as good a striker as his number make him out to be.
The point is he’s miles better than Altidore, who played most of his US career next to Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, the two best US players ever*.
Romelu Lukaku is not a rich man’s Jozy Altidore. Jozy Altidore is a homeless man’s Romelu Lukaku.
*Until Tyler Adams and Christian Pulisic knock them off their perch – if they ever get a shot