Belgium’s record scorer Romelu Lukaku has been called up to their squad for this month’s European Championship qualifiers, coach Domenico Tedesco said on Friday, despite the striker not yet playing this season.
Lukaku signed a one-year loan deal at AS Roma on Thursday and could start on the bench against AC Milan this weekend, but a call-up to the Belgium squad for their Group F matches against Azerbaijan and Estonia was never in doubt, the coach told a press conference.
“We have seen in recent international matches that Romelu is extremely important to us, both on and off the field,” Tedesco said.
“Romelu and I kept in touch almost every day and I was aware of his transfer situation. I know he did train with Chelsea and individually as well and for us it was never a question not to call him. We will see in what condition he fits in and then make a further evaluation.”
But Tedesco did deem new Chelsea player Romeo Lavia, signed from Southampton last month, as "not fit enough" for a call-up. Lavia, 19, has not played either this season.
Wingback Hugo Siquet of Cercle Brugge was called up for the first time.
Tedesco spent some of Friday’s press conference fielding questions about goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, who walked out on the squad in June after being overlooked for the captaincy.
Courtois then later suffered a serious knee injury with Real Madrid that could keep him out for much of the season.
“The most important thing is that he is now recovering well. We have stayed in touch with Thibaut in recent weeks and months. A meeting was planned with myself, but the next day he got injured,” Tedesco said.
Belgium play Azerbaijan in Baku next Saturday and host Estonia three days later.
Goalkeepers: Arnaud Bodart (Standard Liege), Koen Casteels (VfL Wolfsburg), Thomas Kaminski (Luton Town), Matz Sels (Racing Strasbourg)
Defenders: Ameen Al-Dakhil (Burnley), Timothy Castagne (Fulham), Zeni Debast (Anderlecht), Wout Faes (Leicester City), Arthur Theate (Stade Rennes), Jan Vertonghen (Anderlecht)
Midfielders: Yannick Carrasco (Atletico Madrid), Charles de Ketelaere (Atalanta), Olivier Deman (Werder Bremen), Orel Mangala (Nottingham Forest), Amadou Onana (Everton), Hugo Siquet (Cercle Brugge), Youri Tielemans (Aston Villa)
Forwards: Johan Bakayoko (PSV Eindhoven), Mitchy Batshuayi (Fenerbahce), Jeremy Doku (Manchester City), Romelu Lukaku (AS Roma), Dodi Lukebakio (Sevilla), Lois Openda (RB Leipzig), Leonardo Trossard (Arsenal).