It seemed extremely unlikely when Jose Mourinho drummed him out of Chelsea six years ago but, by scoring in Manchester United’s win over Swansea on Saturday, Romelu Lukaku became the fifth-youngest player to reach 100 Premier League goals.
In 2012 the powerful Belgian forward was packed off to West Brom on loan with Mourinho, then at Chelsea, having afforded his young charge a single Premier League start.
Lukaku grabbed his chance with both hands and rattled in 17 top-flight goals in just 20 starts for the Baggies. He’s not stopped scoring since.
The former Anderlecht star racked up his ton in 216 appearances, meaning he is the 12th-quickest player to do so and the 28th ever. No-one has reached a century quicker than Alan Shearer, though, the iconic No.9 doing so in just 124 outings.
However, only Michael Owen (23 year and 134 days), Robbie Fowler (23 years and 283 days), Wayne Rooney (24 years and 100 days) and Harry Kane (24 years and 191 days) reached the 100-goal milestone at a younger age than Lukaku.
So will anyone beat Lukaku’s record? Our friends at Football Whispers have looked at the chances of some of the current contenders, and some of those who could better the Belgian in the long term.
Marcus Rashford â€“ 16 goals
It’s been more than two years since Rashford burst onto the scene as a teenager, scoring on his European and Premier League debuts for Manchester United.
However, the 20-year-old has regressed since. Although he has been a regular in Mourinho’s side in the last two seasons, Rashford has found himself pushed out to the left more often than not.
This term the England international has played as a striker in just five Premier League games. That is reflected in his tally of just six goals, giving him a total of 16 in 71 appearances.
With 4,020 minutes under his belt in that time it would take an improbable upturn in form â€“ as well as gaining Mourinho’s full trust â€“ to improve on a return of 0.35 goals per 90. Lukaku’s, for context, stands at 0.53.
Dele Alli â€“ 36 goals
The form of the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder has come under scrutiny this season with suggestions the former MK Dons prospect has failed to get near his performances of last season.
Alli has taken to the Premier League with ease and underlined that last season by netting 18 times from midfield. Only Kane scored more league goals for Mauricio Pochettino’s men.
This season the 21-year-old has just eight league strikes to his name. That is reflected in his xG90 (expected goals per 90) which stands at just 0.28. Last season that figure was 0.52 and in 2015/16 â€“ when Alli bagged ten â€“ it stood at 0.37.
Alli turns 22 in just eight days meaning he has two more seasons to make up a deficit of 63. He’s going to have to better his goal-scoring return of last season to even get close.
Gabriel Jesus â€“ 16 goals
The Samba star joined Manchester City as a relative unknown following a£27million January switch from Palmeiras. That soon changed.
He marked his league debut with a goal against West Ham and, despite injury, finished his first half season with seven goals from eight starts.
This term the 21-year-old has continued in a similar vein, bagging nine from 14 to give him an impressive return of 16 goals from just 22 starts for the Citizens. That despite sharing striking duties with Sergio Aguero.
At present Jesus is averaging 0.8 goals per 90 which puts him ahead of Lukaku (0.53). That figure will drop if the Brazilian finally displaces Aguero in Pep Guardiola’s starting XI but more minutes should mean more goals for the Brazil international.
In truth, it might already be too late for a number of the Premier League’s most-feared young forwards. Leroy Sane and Anthony Martial, for example, average a goal every three games but at 22 they have just a couple of seasons to drastically raise their output.
We might, therefore, already be looking to the next generation of young forwards to better Lukaku’s record. So who could they be?
Mason Greenwood (Manchester United)
The 16-year-old became the second-youngest player to score a hat-trick for United at under-16 level when he bagged three against Wolves last season.
Greenwood has continued that form this term and, with 14 goals, is the joint-second highest scorer in the Under-18 Premier League.
According to former United player and coach Clayton Blackmore, he is one to keep an eye on: â€œHe’s great on the ball and very good with both feet.
â€œHe’s the first person I’ve seen that takes penalties and the free-kicks with his wrong foot. I’ve never come across anyone like that! He’s got a great chance.â€
Rhian Brewster (Liverpool)
Two years Greenwood’s senior, Brewster shot to prominence last summer by scoring eight times to win the Golden Boot as England lifted the Under-17 World Cup.
Already highly thought of at Liverpool, he trained with Jurgen Klopp’s first team on the German’s second day at Anfield, aged just 15.
He was even included in Klopp’s squad for the Premier League defeat against Crystal Palace last April and was again involved in the postseason tour of Australia.
Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea)
There have been calls for the 17-year-old forward â€“ who has been with the Blues since he was an under-8 â€“ to be pitched into Antonio Conte’s side this season with Alvaro Morata toiling up front.
And Hudson-Odoi made his debut as a substitute in the FA Cup win over Newcastle in January, adding three further appearances for Chelsea’s first team since.
Conte is a big fan of the versatile teenage forward, saying: “Hudson-Odoi is another player who deserves to have a chance to show he can play for this team for 10 or 15 years.”
By Tom Bodell – follow Tom and the rest of the team at Football Whispers on Twitter @FB_Whispers