It was a big bombshell when Romelu Lukaku returned to Chelsea in the summer of 2021. The Belgian striker was returning as a goalscorer after an unsuccessful first stint at the London big club, having made his mark at Everton, Manchester United and Inter Milan. Chelsea, however, are clearly not for him.
Chelsea fans were looking forward to seeing Romelu Lukaku in the summer of 2021. Forgotten was the first failed engagement at Stamford Bridge back then, instead of a youngster with potential now came a strapping striker with the form of his life and experience of the elite leagues.
Lukaku had a terrific year in his legs, individually and as a club. He was involved in 40 of the team’s goals, scoring 30 and assisting ten. However, he won over Inter fans above all by adding the Serie A winner’s trophy to the trophy cabinet for the first time since the 2009/10 edition.
The start of the engagement hinted at the potential
From the start of the new season, Chelsea started smoothly. There was still a positive mood at the club after the summer’s Champions League triumph, which few expected. Lukaku made his debut in the second round against Arsenal and with a goal from the 15th minute decided the points for the Blues.
An ideal start spiced up by the defeat of a rival kicked the team and Lukaku. Chelsea won twice and drew once in the next three games, with the Belgian tank contributing three of the shots.
A decline in form and mood
After that, however, the initial vigour waned and Lukaku failed to score in seven consecutive games. To make matters worse, he got injured and was unavailable for a month. Meanwhile, coach Thomas Tuchel got used to playing without him and after his recovery he only came on as a substitute.
The poor minutes logically annoyed one of the biggest stars of the previous Serie A season. Shortly before Christmas, Lukaku even complained about Tuchel’s system. While the player was used to a 3-5-2 with two classical strikers, the coach was betting more on a 3-4-3 with a trio of actively pressing players.
Tuchel responded to the criticism by not calling up Lukaku for the Liverpool game, but then gave his offensive weapon four chances in the starting lineup. The Belgian marksman could have sensed that this might be his last opportunity to succeed in a Blues jersey.
Shame and goodbye
350 minutes, zero goals scored and a negative record against Crystal Palace. Very negative indeed, as he became the first player since the 2003/04 season to touch the ball only seven times in 90 minutes.
On the face of it, a perhaps useless and irrelevant statistic essentially spelled Lukaku’s demise. He has subsequently made only four appearances in the starting line-up since March, condemned by Blues fans.
Hooray back home
In terms of numbers, Lukaku finished with a fairly respectable 15+3 record. However, there is no getting away from the fact that he cost the club €113 million. For a similar amount, the Gunners had Gabriel Jesus and Martin Odegaard together.
When Inter showed interest in Lukaku again in the summer, there was nothing to worry about. The Belgian international went where he knows it well. And although he doesn’t play week in week out in the starting line-up, he is happy. And, most importantly, he’ll be facing the Champions League final in June.
Sources: Premier League, Serie A, Transfermarkt
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