The idea of a club record signing leaving after just twelve months would normally be a non-starter by default, but Chelsea’s current circumstances could possibly enable the swift exit of Romelu Lukaku, should he (and we) choose to push for it. The rumor mill’s certainly starting to believe, if all the latest rumblings out of Italy are any indication.
While Lukaku started the season well, with 4 goals in his first 4 games after his glorious return to Stamford Bridge, had a lovely moment in the middle, with 2 goals in 2 games at the Club World Cup, and ended the season quite well as well, with 3 goals in his last 3 games, he scored just 6 times in the 35 other games he played. More concerningly, he’s looked completely out of place in the team’s tactical setup much of the time, despite somehow still finishing as our leading goalscorer in the end. His arrival was supposed to enable a more direct approach (or at least the option for it), but just as in the case of Timo Werner, we were not able to adjust well enough in that regard. (And unlike Werner, Lukaku usually doesn’t stay as involved in the play then otherwise.)
This tactical issue was acknowledged early and often, and yet we still were not able to solve it properly. All involved surely wanted to make it work — even Chatty McChatterson Romelu himself — but we haven’t really seen any tangible improvement in that regard, with Lukaku dropped for long stretches after the turn of the year.
Still, that wouldn’t necessarily open the exit door — just look at Kepa Arrizabalaga, or Danny Drinkwater, or Tiémoué Bakayoko — big contracts are very hard to shift in the transfer market, and almost impossible to do so without a loan. And sure enough, it is a loan that is being mooted for the 29-year-old, and one that would be a relative bargain compared to the financial commitment we made last summer.
But Chelsea’s ownership transition could enable this “bargain” in a way, since Lukaku’s essentially a sunk cost from the new owners’ perspective. Obviously, the club’s accounts aren’t reset just because there’s new money in charge, but that change at the top might look more favorably upon a €20m loan fee with a €70m buy-obligation (or just €70m right now), which are apparently the terms we’ve set out, at least according to La Repubblica (via Sempre Inter).
Romelu Lukaku planning decisive talks with new Chelsea owners as Inter Milan look to take advantage of striker's uncertain future https://t.co/2c1H23GfZv— Times Sport (@TimesSport) May 30, 2022
The report, as well as the rest of Italian media, are convinced that Lukaku does want to go back already — that’s what happens when you declare your undying love for Inter just a few months after coming back to Chelsea, I suppose — and he might even accept a 50 per cent paycut. (English media are not as convinced yet, expecting talks with Chelsea first; you do need both!) The striker reportedly switched representation recently, which isn’t really that surprising after the harsh words he aimed at Federico Pastorello on Instagram last month, and this new person, some lawyer,
Kobayashi Sebastien Ledure may even be meeting with Inter today.
#Lukaku non vuole agenti accanto, al massimo consulenti o avvocati. Come anticipato il 13 maggio, ha preso le distanze da #Pastorello. Un ritorno all’#Inter? Solo in prestito e a 7 milioni di ingaggio (la metà). In pratica dovrebbero quasi regalarlo— Alfredo Pedullà (@AlfredoPedulla) May 29, 2022
With Chelsea’s sanctions now lifted as well, we can truly get down to business. Giving up on Lukaku would be a massive call from the new people in charge, and yet, in a way, also a big statement of intent in terms of supporting the current manager’s vision and style of play. It should also be noted that Lukaku will be turning 30 next season, which is likely to start limiting the transfer options available, perhaps adding some impetus to finding a solution this summer that doesn’t involve us anymore.