Belgium striker on why he thinks he is now one of the best forwards in the world.
World Soccer: Euro 2016 is your second big tournament, after the World Cup. Will it be less of a step into the unknown?
Romelu Lukaku: Yes, of course. Finals are always good, but it won’t be the same as two years ago. We’ve the experience we picked up in Brazil and the stress will be different. We’re more confident. We know what we can bring to the table, we know our qualities.
You beat Italy 3-1 in November. What did you make of them?
They were very strong tactically. It wasn’t an easy match for me. During the first 20 minutes, I thought we were dominated tactically. They are good. They get forward very quickly, they play at a high tempo. But for me, it was individual class which made the difference that day.
At the back, Italy have the Juventus unit and their big advantage is that they know the coach, who was their club boss three years previously. You can see it in the way Italy play; they operate like Juventus. I watch a lot of matches on TV, including Serie A, and in that friendly came across a lot of those Juve players. For me, Italy are one of the tournament favourites.
Is it true that you watch recordings of your matches and analyse them, too?
I don’t do it so much with the national team. I don’t play every game and there are a lot of other matches between international dates. I pay much more attention to my development at Everton, where I play more often. I learn things on a daily basis. It’s different with Belgium.
You’ll face some of your club colleagues when you play Ireland. Have you spoken to one another about it?
A lot. They are happy to be going to France and warn me that they are going to make life difficult for us. I jokily reply that we won’t be easy meat. It comes up a lot in the dressing room. Even though our focus was on the Premier League, it’s not been great for Everton and that’s the main topic of conversation. It seems to me that in Belgium, thoughts have turned more quickly to the Euros because the championship there is less high profile.
We are impatient to get started, but for the moment are especially relaxed. Most of the players are with big clubs and are in the hunt for titles or Champions League places. We’re in a business which keeps us occupied every day, yet also allows us to chill out. Soon we’ll be meeting up and then we’ll get down to serious work.
In the third match of the finals you will come face to face with Sweden and Zlatan Ibrahimovic…
Zlatan is a good forward. In the play-offs, he qualified his team on his own. When you look at his statistics and his football, he improves year on year. Incredible.
Is Ibrahimovic a good example for you to follow as a striker?
Yes. Just like every forward who scores goals. The way he has progressed, the rhythm with which he has gone about it. He scored goals in Serie A, the most difficult league for an attacker. He was scoring 25 goals a season at the age of 28 or 29 and has been doing the same for PSG at 34. Hats off to him.
Were you happy with your performances for Everton last season?
I’m among the best. That’s good. Personally I am happy. I did expect to produce a season of this calibre.
Because I’ve been a professional for six or seven years. When you think you are among the best, you have to prove it. And I’m starting to do that.
Do you ever think about winning the European Golden Shoe? Or is it too difficult in England?
No, no. But maybe it will be the next step. We’ll see. It’s an objective. You have to try to break every possible record. I also want to win titles with my team. As long as the two aims go together, I’ll be satisfied.
Interview by Peter T’Kint/ESM