This one's a bit of an odd story in many ways and not just because it's liable to dredge up a few repressed feelings and scratch at barely healed wounds.
Jose Mourinho could cost Chelsea millions after advising against buy-back clause in Romelu Lukaku's Everton contract
That's the headline on the Telegraph 'EXCLUSIVE' carrying Matt Law's byline. This usually indicates a Chelsea source of some sort. It doesn't guarantee it of course, but more often than not, Law tends to represent that club's view on things. As to who exactly at Chelsea might be briefing journalists on various issues is open for interpretation and speculation. We only know a few things for sure, namely that the buck stops with Abramovich and that he has many advisors, all of whom can claim some amount of influence. Michael Emenalo may be Director of Football, but there's actually a decent chance that he doesn't hold anywhere near the most amount of power in the Chelsea front office. He certainly wouldn't have been trotted out as a scapegoat on the eve of Mourinho's sacking were that not the case.
(The alternative explanation is that Emenalo is indeed the evil genius moving all the puppet strings in the background, in which case he deserves all the vitriol that has gone his way in recent months.)
Now, supposedly, this story isn't sourced from within Chelsea, at least certainly not directly. Law cites "sources close to the deal in Belgium", whoever they may be (Chelsea men? Lukaku's entourage? random agents?) who claim that on Mourinho's insistence, Chelsea opted to structure the deal with Everton in a way that resulted in a higher transfer fee (an Everton club record £28m, in fact) in exchange for no buy-back clause. Apparently Mourinho was "unequivocal in his belief" that he would not be interested in re-signing Lukaku anytime soon (which, given how it all went down, is probably not surprising). Bound to the manager's iron will, the Chelsea Board acquiesced and no doubt oh-so-reluctantly took the truckloads of cash that Everton were offering. Now, the story goes, these same people "regret selling Lukaku with no buy-back clause" and apparently are trying to make themselves feel better by taking this giant stick of regret and mercilessly beating the spectre of Mourinho's dead horse with it. It's good to let off a bit of steam every once in a while.
Placing full blame on Jose is of course far too simplistic and convenient. He's by no means faultless; he might even be the most responsible of all the people involved (though he'd undoubtedly disagree). It was Mourinho after all who chose not to play Lukaku, who advocated for keeping, bringing in, and selecting veteran strikers like Eto'o and Drogba and Ba and Torres. Mourinho was the one who insisted on making this a cut-throat competition for Lukaku despite the big kid's success while on loan. These weren't necessarily the wrong choices at the time, but just as in the case of Kevin De Bruyne, they turned out to be the wrong choices for that particular situation, and they eventually resulted in Lukaku packing his bags and looking for something different. In hindsight -- and we care because these two certainly turned out great -- these egregious outcomes could've been avoided with just slightly different management.
But Mourinho's far from the only decision-maker in this situation. Mourinho isn't actually in charge of Chelsea's transfers — at the top level of modern football, very, very few managers are — if the Chelsea Board felt so strongly about a buy-back clause as they appear to feel about it now, they could've easily overruled the manager. They did just that without a problem when Petr Čech was sold to Arsenal or when none of Jose's supposed transfer targets last summer were actively pursued until it was too late. By committee is a scary word when it comes to transfers, but most clubs do business exactly like that. Assuming Everton would've agreed, Chelsea could've very easily worked out a buy-back ... though it's not something we seem to do very often despite our large volume of transfer market activities overall.
Lukaku himself could've handled the situation differently as well. Again, as with Mourinho's decisions, these could be viewed as right or wrong, as understandable or petulant, as smart or silly. We can understand why Lukaku chose to do what he chose to do and why Mourinho acted the way he acted without having to necessarily agree with it. Placing blame on one party while absolving the other is about as far from reality as we're likely to get. We don't exactly know what the agenda is for the people behind this whole story, but it's safe to say, they're not Mourinho's men.
Beyond the oversimplification of how certain transactions and transfer decisions are made at Chelsea, the other major part of this story that seems a bit far-fetched is that Romelu Lukaku would even consider coming back to Chelsea, regardless of how much money we're willing to throw at him and his current club. If there's anything we know about Lukaku, it's that he's a very ambitious boy. And that he talks a lot and usually without much reservation. But mostly that he's very ambitious. While he's no doubt matured in the last couple years as a professional, it's still hard to see him eschew Champions League opportunities (if the other transfer rumors surrounding him are to be believed) to return to Stamford Bridge, where the only thing that's guaranteed is that there will be more drama.
In any case, the presence or the lack of a buy-back clause is unlikely to truly affect whether Lukaku ends up back at Stamford Bridge for "unfinished business" as the Mirror put it. Everton are supposedly asking £65m for him; I highly doubt the extra, say, £15m over any potential buy-back clause would serve as deterred if we're actually determined to make this happen.
But hey, it's fun to beat things with big sticks.