Europe English Premier League

“Storm Lukaku” Calmed Down as Chelsea Face Crucial Run of Games

Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku returns to training on Monday following a heated few days that saw him being dropped from the Blues’ squad in their 2-2 draw with Liverpool over the weekend. Lukaku’s omission came after a controversial interview with Sky Italia where the Belgian admitted that he’s “unhappy with his bit-part role at Chelsea” and he’s also “open to a return to Inter Milan” where the striker had spent two seasons prior to joining Chelsea.

Lukaku’s interview, which was recorded three weeks prior to its release, was done without the knowledge of everyone at Chelsea as well as his own agent, who were all taken by surprise by the interview’s contents when it was released on New Year’s Eve.

The Sky Italia interview saw Lukaku express his displeasure at his role as a bit-part player underneath Tuchel earlier this season, adding that he desires to return to Inter somewhere in the near future.

Consequently, the interview angered not only everyone associated with Chelsea but also Inter fans, who placed a banner that reads out “It doesn’t matter who runs away in the rain, it matters who stays in the storm. Bye Romelu.” It was understood that Lukaku and the Inter fanbase did not part on good terms when he left the Italian champions and the interview was set up as a way for the Belgian to apologize to them.

Blues manager Tuchel was unhappy with the “unnecessary noise” generated by the Lukaku interview and in order to retain his team’s concentration and focus towards last Sunday’s home match against Liverpool, the German dropped Lukaku completely from his plans for the match, with the Belgian absent from both the starting lineup and the substitutes’ bench for the occasion – a decision that was met with full support by both Lukaku’s teammates and Chelsea fans.

However, after the Liverpool game – which saw Chelsea fight their way from 2-0 down to draw the game 2-2 – Tuchel dismissed any notions that Chelsea are going to offload Lukaku in the winter transfer window.

“He is our player, there is always a way back,” Tuchel said, as quoted from BBC Sport, “We will clear this behind closed doors and once we have made a decision and Romelu knows, you will maybe know also. It is not to be discussed now.”

It was reported that Lukaku and Tuchel had a private meeting on Monday to discuss the issue and according to football journalist Gianluca Di Marzio the meeting was a success, with the two men burying the hatchet and Lukaku determined to redeem himself in the remainder of the season. The Belgian had also apologized to everyone at the club and there will be no further consequences for his action.

The quick resolution of the Lukaku debacle came at a very important time for Chelsea as they face a crucial run of games in the coming few days – a Carabao Cup semifinal first leg tie against Tottenham Hotspur this mid-week, an FA Cup third-round game at home against non-league Chesterfield FC in the weekend, the second leg of the Carabao Cup semifinal against Spurs the following mid-week, and a vital league match away at Manchester City next weekend.