Palace boss Alan Pardew hails Romelu Lukaku as next Didier Drogba
Alan Pardew believes Romelu Lukaku is on course to become the next Didier Drogba.
The Crystal Palace manager is preparing his team to face the striker on Monday evening when they visit Everton in the Premier League.
With an elegant touch and powerful finish last Saturday at Bournemouth, Lukaku, who has scored 13 goals this season including six in the past five games, again demonstrated he is in the finest form of his career.
His timing seems particularly appropriate, given former club Chelsea's problems with the underperforming Diego Costa this season and that Jose Mourinho sold him in the belief he was "not motivated" to fight for a first-team place, and Pardew is more than wary of the threat he can pose.
"Lukaku is an unusual player in that he's naturally left-footed," Pardew said. "I think for a striker that is an advantage.
"Most defenders are defending right-footed players, and he gives them a slight (problem) which sets him apart.
"His all-round game has improved, he is the full No 9. We looked at the iconic one of the last 10 years, Drogba.
"You have to say Lukaku does look like he could emulate that. I'm sure that would be his ambition."
Similarly to Everton, who use the width and creativity provided by Gerard Deulofeu, Arouna Kone and Ross Barkley to supplement Lukaku's athleticism, Pardew will on Monday use Jason Puncheon, Yannick Bolasie and Yohan Cabaye to support Connor Wickham.
Wilfried Zaha is suspended owing to a yellow card collected for diving in the recent 5-1 defeat of Newcastle but Pardew's attack retains potential and the manager believes £7million signing Wickham is ready to highlight that.
"Connor is a work in progress," he said. "He needs to add goals, but he hasn't had too many opportunities. This year is a big year. If he is to become what I hope he's going to become then next year is his year.
"He is (still) some way off Dean Ashton. Ashton was probably the best I've worked with, cut short by injury. I've had some very good strikers - Teddy Sheringham, Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, (Carlos) Tevez.
"If I was to pigeon-hole him at the moment I don't think he's a 20-goal a season man. I think he can get 15 in the calendar year. Most managers would be quite happy with his all-round game. I'm targeting 15, 16 goals for him next year."