Tuchel on Lukaku omission
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Romelu Lukaku is so far proving Antonio Conte’s ‘exceptional’ prediction wrong after a nightmare return to Chelsea. The pair enjoyed huge success during their two seasons working together in Italy, helping Inter Milan to their first Serie A title in more than a decade last term.
Lukaku successfully resurrected a career derailed by a frustrating stint with Manchester United, and it was this prolific form which earned the Belgian international a shock return to the Premier League. The striker embraced the challenge of righting the wrongs from his first spell Stamford Bridge spell where he first signed as a teenager but was afforded few opportunities to impress.
Fast forward a decade, and Lukaku is almost back to where he started in English football. The striker was an unused substitute in Chelsea’s shock defeat at relegation battlers Everton, with Thomas Tuchel tellingly stating he could only make three changes when quizzed over the decision not to turn to his star summer signing.
The Blues smashed their own transfer record to bring Lukaku back – seven years on from selling the promising striker to Everton after two impressive loan spells away from the capital. Now, the former Anderlecht prodigy has unfairly become a social media punchline after falling out of favour under Tuchel.
Explaining his decision to sign the striker at Inter, Conte told DAZN in April last year: “I have not forgotten how a lot of people turned their nose up when we signed Lukaku and said he was overrated. But I always said that he arrived here with potential and that if he worked hard he could do extraordinary things. Lukaku has made exceptional improvements and can make even more.”
Instead of making the strides forward boldly predicted by his former manager, Lukaku is likely to be on the lookout for the seventh club of his professional career this summer. The striker has made just one Premier League start in the last two months, with his last top-flight goal coming in December.
Tuchel held clear-the-air talks with Lukaku following his controversial Sky Italy interview at the turn of the year, but the star summer signing has been a bench option at best as Chelsea exited the Champions League and continue to stumble in the Premier League. The Blues lack an out-and-out number nine, yet the former Inter Milan still has to settle for the occasional cameo appearance.
Kai Havertz has shrugged off his own first-season struggles at Stamford Bridge and seemingly claimed the striking berth as his own, although Chelsea’s sustained profligacy hints the issue lays beyond either forward. But even if the German international is not scoring, the 22-year-old’s contributions off the ball and in the press make him a better fit for Tuchel’s approach.
The question then becomes what happens next for Lukaku? The takeover saga and the contract stand-offs means Tuchel is facing a host of major transfer calls this summer, and the Chelsea boss has a £97.5m problem on his bench to address.
Lukaku’s goalscoring record to date is proof of his pedigree, and the Belgian international has still netted 12 times despite his struggles this season. However, Tuchel is unlikely to deviate from the system which delivered Chelsea the Champions League last year, and it is currently difficult to see anyway in which Lukaku fits into these plans beyond the summer.
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