Romelu Lukaku record and huge sum Chelsea still owe Inter Milan a clue as to the striker’s future

Chelsea record £97.5million Romelu Lukaku has endured a difficult season at Stamford Bridge and his future at the Premier League club looks more uncertain with each passing week

Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku has endured a difficult season at the club after his costly return
Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku has endured a difficult season at the club after his costly return

Clubs in Italy are on high alert as striker Romelu Lukaku is now losing both the battle of numbers and the war of words.

The Belgian international £97.5million mishap back at Stamford Bridge seemed doomed since an unwise interview surfaced over Christmas in which he criticized Thomas Tuchel’s tactics and spoke of a return to old club Inter Milan.

Now Lukaku’s recent Premier League reprieve has played straight into the players’ hands Chelsea manager – proves that the struggling 28-year-old ex Manchester United Frontman doesn’t fit the style of play that Tuchel wants for his team.

Like when he was substituted after just an hour against Chelsea’s 4-2 defeat arsenal, he had touched the ball just 22 times, the lowest of any outfield player and one touch more than Arsenal goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale. By that point, team-mate Thiago Silva had already seen so much of the ball and the centre-back had only come on as a substitute early in the second half. It may counteract an improvement over Lukaku’s contribution crystal palace Earlier this season where he only touched the ball seven times.

But that was in a game on Wednesday in which Chelsea had 68 per cent – more than two-thirds – of possession. It was far from just 15 minutes for Lukaku to start his second Chelsea appearance with a goal against the Gunners at the Emirates in August. Tuchel even admitted the decision to give Lukaku his first First League Start for over two months was partly sentimental in the hope that he might magically rediscover this form.

“If you have good experience or a good moment against an opponent, that can help,” said Tuchel before kick-off. “That wasn’t the main reason – the main reason was that he deserved to play.” It will be interesting to see when Lukaku should play next. Kai Havertz shouldered most of the work as he led Chelsea’s attack and after replacing his team-mate on Wednesday he managed just four touches less than Lukaku in half the time on the field.

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Romelu Lukaku walks past Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, who was substituted in the 4-2 home loss to Arsenal


GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

But without further Champions League Interest, gaps in the schedule appear and the need to rest the Germany international diminishes as the end of the season approaches. At the same time, the structure of payments in the original deal means Chelsea still owe Inter Milan £71m for Lukaku – a huge early expense for the new owners for a player so obviously underperforming.

It would be tempting given the amount of work that needs to be done behind the scenes at the club to unravel the Roman Abramovich era and bring the club back forward to try and move Lukaku forward before his shares fall completely. Tuchel has no qualms about angering star players – Mats Hummels at Dortmund and Kylian Mbappe at PSG have had public disagreements with the aggressive German manager.

From his decision to discipline Lukaku for that interview in extenuating circumstances – it had been filmed many weeks earlier, at a time when Lukaku was understandably frustrated by injuries – Tuchel had set a collision course with his record signing. Nothing about Tuchel says he’s about to change his approach; Nothing about the game against Arsenal suggests Lukaku will fit in more productively.

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