Lukaku comments anger Tuchel but striker has no plans to leave Chelsea
Romelu Lukaku has no intention of leaving Chelsea despite angering Thomas Tuchel with an interview in which the striker said that he was “not happy” with his situation at Stamford Bridge this season.
Lukaku, who became Chelsea’s record signing after joining from Internazionale for £97.5m last summer, stumbled into a controversy of his own making when comments about his dissatisfaction with his role under Tuchel were released by Sky Italia on Thursday.
The interview took place three weeks ago and was intended to help the Belgian build bridges with Inter fans. However, Lukaku ended up risking his relationship with Tuchel after questioning the manager’s system and adding that he wants to return to San Siro while still at “a good enough level”.
Lukaku is not thinking about quitting Chelsea now and sources said there was “zero chance” of a reunion with Inter in January. The forward revealed that he had turned down an offer from Manchester City in 2020 and, when Inter rejected his request for a new contract last summer, decided that Chelsea were the only team he would contemplate joining.
Nonetheless the interview has irritated Tuchel, whose problems increased after Reece James was ruled out for at least two months with a torn hamstring. James’s absence could prompt Chelsea to try to sign Kieran Trippier, who wants to return to the Premier League from Atlético Madrid and is being pursued by Newcastle.
Tuchel would not confirm whether Lukaku would face disciplinary action and said the 28-year-old had hurt Chelsea’s focus before they try to revive their ailing title challenge by beating Liverpool on Sunday.
“We don’t like it,” Tuchel said. “It brings noise that we don’t need and it’s not helpful. We don’t want to make more out of it than it actually is. It is easy to take lines out of context, shorten lines, make headlines and then realise later that it is not so bad. We need a calm environment and focus and this does not help.”
Tuchel said he would speak to Lukaku, who fired Inter to the title last season. “I don’t feel him unhappy,” the German said. “I feel the exact opposite. That’s why it’s a surprise. If there is something to discuss it’s behind closed doors. It does not reflect his daily work.
“But you need to ask him. Everything you say is out there if you are such a big player like Romelu. He is experienced and should know what kind of value it has when he speaks out like this.”
Lukaku, who has seven goals in 18 appearances in all competitions, has endured a frustrating time since returning to Stamford Bridge. He had gone seven games without a goal before suffering an ankle injury in October and had a further spell on the sidelines after testing positive for Covid-19 just before Christmas.
Lukaku had given a less explosive interview after making a goalscoring return in Chelsea’s win over Aston Villa on Boxing Day. Lukaku, who also scored in Chelsea’s 1-1 draw with Brighton on Wednesday, described himself as “multidimensional” and said he had asked Tuchel for clarity about his role.
“This is the problem because you have a quote in another direction and he says he had a chat with me,” Tuchel said. “Then the suggestion comes and it seems the chat was about how he was not happy how we used him. But maybe that was not the chat. We have chats with a lot of players. This is a normal chat.
“We have a discussion now where it seems that we benched him because other players suited our style better. Romelu played when he came, then he got injured, then he caught Covid and when he came back, he played with no training in Aston Villa. That’s why I’m surprised. There is absolutely zero going on. Maybe he has a problem so he needs to speak up. I don’t have one.”
Tuchel was asked how Lukaku could best function in his system. “Training, training, playing,” he replied. “Training, playing, training, sleeping, eating good, training, playing, sleeping, eat good, drink a lot of water, sleep, train and don’t give interviews.”
Chelsea, eight points behind Manchester City, have injury problems. Ben Chilwell is out for the season and scans have confirmed that James suffered a torn hamstring against Brighton, leaving Tuchel without his first-choice wing-backs.
Tuchel, who could also be without Andreas Christensen, Thiago Silva and Timo Werner against Liverpool, needs cover at left wing-back. Chelsea are looking into recalling Emerson Palmieri from his loan at Lyon, but the French club do not want to break the agreement. If Emerson stays, Chelsea could target Everton’s Lucas Digne or Barcelona’s Sergiño Dest.