Roberto Martinez has emphasised the crucial role Romelu Lukaku plays at the World Cup for Belgium, insisting he was in the team for much more than just goals.
The Manchester United forward was criticised by Eden Hazard for not showing for the ball enough during the first half of Belgium’s opening World Cup game against Panama.
And Lukaku duly responded, producing an excellent performance after the break during which he claimed two goals.
Speaking ahead of Belgium’s clash with Tunisia, Martinez emphasised how crucial Lukaku was to the team in terms of more than just goals.
“He will tell you, he’s not here to to be the top goal-scorer in the World Cup,” he said. “He’s here to try to help the team to win and fulfill his role. His role is someone who can score goals.”
“I think his role now with the national team has become that. I think before there was a bit of confusion. When you ask him to do too many things he’s not good at, he becomes a bit diluted in terms of his performance.
“I think Rom knows now what his role is, like I hope every other player does on the pitch, because that’s the only way we can become a team.
“I wouldn’t expect any player to work towards an individual award in this tournament. The players know exactly what they have to do in order to try to help the team become a winning team, and that’s the focus.”
Lukaku has already become Belgium’s top goalscorer and will, judging by his first season, go down as a great goalscorer for Man United.
But as both of his managers for club and country always emphasise, Lukaku is valuable for reasons beyond his prowess in the box. United’s performance in the FA Cup, final, for example felt disjointed and spindly without the Belgian at its masthead, holding up play, driving forward, creating space.
His sheer presence brings the team up the pitch and into dangerous areas. And Mourinho will no doubt be looking for ways his players can benefit from his qualities up front to create more chances ahead of the 2018/19 campaign.