Romelu Lukaku is the one that got away for Chelsea… talk of a £90m swoop for their former striker gives both club and player a second chance at success – and it’s a move that makes sense for all parties after nightmare first spell at Stamford Bridge
- Romelu Lukaku spent three difficult years at Chelsea, joining when he was 18
- He played in 12 Premier League matches but failed to score in any of them
- Belgian striker has now been linked with a £90million return to Stamford Bridge
- It makes sense for all parties, giving Blues a top striker and Lukaku another shot
When Chelsea’s hierarchy look back at their transfer dealings over the past decade, one name will almost certainly stand out as the one that got away.
When Romelu Lukaku arrived from Anderlecht in 2011, it was as a supporter of the team, a bonafide member of the Didier Drogba fan club, desperate to secure success.
Just a year prior to his arrival, the Belgian had visited Stamford Bridge on a school trip, with a YouTube video of him looking around the stadium still widely viewed today.
Romelu Lukaku is flying high for Inter Milan and is one of the best strikers in world football
At Chelsea, though, it was a different story and he failed to net in 12 Premier League games
‘Give me a ball and I will be playing here for five hours,’ he says. ‘What a stadium. The day I’m playing here, that will be the single time in life that you would see me cry. I’m going to succeed. I’m not dreaming. I’m going to play here someday I’m sure.’
And then he was given the chance to make that a reality. Unfortunately for him, and for the club, it didn’t work out and Lukaku moved on having failed to score in any of his 12 Premier League appearances.
Looking back, it seems almost impossible for that to have been the case. At Everton, he came alive, at Manchester United goalscoring wasn’t an issue, and now at Inter Milan he has netted 61 goals in 91 appearances.
Without doubt, Lukaku is one of the world’s finest strikers, and the latest reports coming out of west London claim that Chelsea are now keen to re-sign their former player to give him a second shot.
It would cost Roman Abramovich a fee in the region of £90m to get him back, a deal similar to that of Manchester United bringing back Paul Pogba from Juventus in 2016.
That, of course, has had its ups and downs, but Chelsea are in desperate need of a striker and with Erling Haaland seemingly out of the equation, there are few better options than Lukaku.
Lukaku says he will never forgive Andre Villas-Boas for freezing him out of the first team
The Belgian fared better under Roberto Di Matteo, but still struggled to succeed at Chelsea
—-> 2012–2013: West Brom (loan)
—-> 2013–2014: Everton (loan)
2017–2019: Manchester United
2019–present: Inter Milan
In truth, it would make sense for all parties. First, the player. Lukaku has spoken openly of his dream at making it big at Chelsea, and although it didn’t work out the first time there will be a part of the Belgian desperate to prove his detractors wrong.
And when it comes to that list of detractors, there is one man sitting right at the very top – Andre Villas-Boas. Speaking in the years since he left Chelsea, Lukaku hasn’t said a bad word about the club, but there is certainly ill-feeling towards his old boss.
Villas-Boas took charge shortly before Lukaku arrived at the club, but by the time March of the following year rolled around, he was already out of work.
In that time, the striker was given very little chance to prove his worth, and he has since insisted he will never forgive Villas-Boas for exiling him from the first team.
Roberto Di Matteo stepped up to take over as caretaker boss, and immediately Lukaku noticed the changes.
‘Di Matteo told me that I would stay with the group until after the [Champions League] final,’ he told Het Laatste Nieuws.
‘He thought everyone should come along, including the ones who were suspended and the few boys who were not in the Champions League squad. I am also grateful to him for that.
Lukaku returning to Chelsea would be similar to Paul Pogba’s move back to Manchester United
Thomas Tuchel will be hoping to sign a world-class striker and Lukaku could fit the bill
‘I am happy for the whole club, but there is one man who took a lot from me: the previous trainer (Villas-Boas). I will never forgive him for that. Once I had to play in the front left, another time in the front right. You don’t develop that way.
‘Then at some point you have to think about yourself. So I told the club what I thought of it. I know, Villas-Boas was also under pressure.
‘But that’s why he didn’t have to treat me like that. Di Matteo approached me completely differently, he immediately involved me in everything. That should have been much earlier. Really, I never forgave the previous coach.’
So from the off, it was a tough start for Lukaku in the royal blue of Chelsea. For months, he endured a bit-part role, before eventually Villas-Boas was sacked and the shackles were loosened.
That said, sole blame cannot be placed on the shoulders of the former boss, because it didn’t get too much better on the pitch for Lukaku after his exit.
Kai Havertz (left) and Timo Werner were big-money buys but have failed to hit the heights yet
Erling Haaland is seemingly off the table for Chelsea so attention will likely turn elsewhere
Still, he failed to score in the Premier League, and that dream of netting for his boyhood club in the English top flight remains unfulfilled.
And so, it makes perfect sense for Lukaku to head back to Stamford Bridge, seven years older and wiser. The team, too, is now ready to challenge right at the top of the table and Lukaku is seen as a potential final cog in Thomas Tuchel’s machine.
For the Belgian, it will also be seen as a upwards step towards trying to secure his first ever Champions League title.
While Inter Milan are top of Serie A, they finished bottom of their Champions League group, while Chelsea are in an excellent position to secure their place in this season’s final.
Of course, beating Juventus to the top of the standings in Italy is no mean feat, but it is widely accepted that Chelsea are at a higher level than Antonio Conte’s side.
For Inter Milan, it will be a difficult decision should Chelsea come in with a £90m bid, but that kind of money post Covid-19 is not to be sniffed at.
Lukaku (second right) is firing on all cylinders for Inter and has 21 Serie A goals this season
Tammy Abraham is another Chelsea player potentially leaving to free up space for a striker
Finances across European football have been hit hard, in Italy and Spain particularly, and Inter bosses would certainly be boosted by that large sum of money coming in.
Of course, you must weigh that up heading into a campaign where, realistically, Inter will be trying to defend their league title and go deeper into the Champions League.
But ultimately, if the player tries to force the move through, there is very little Inter would do to stop it in its tracks.
And so, finally, to Chelsea. There is an element of pride on show, and re-signing Lukaku would involve them holding their hands up and saying, ‘we made a mistake’.
An expensive one, at that, but they will be confident that if he is fit and firing, Lukaku will more than make up for the fee, especially given he is still only 27 and has a good few years left at the very pinnacle of his game.
Antonio Conte will be desperate to keep Lukaku but if a £90m offer comes it, it will be tough
Lukaku may have a big decision to make: stay at Inter or give the Premier League another shot
In fact, as previously mentioned, he might even be that last piece of the puzzle to take them above and beyond what they have achieved in recent years.
While Timo Werner and Kai Havertz were big, expensive purchases, they arrived with no Premier League experience and have struggled to hit the ground running as was hoped.
Yes, Lukaku also had some difficulties at Chelsea, but his performances after leaving at Everton and Manchester United have proved his ability at that level.
And so, if Inter get £90m, Chelsea get a world-class striker, and Lukaku gets another shot at Chelsea to prove he’s got what it takes, it might just make sense for all parties.
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