Soccer

Thomas Tuchel hails Chelsea signing Romelu Lukaku: ‘He embodies all that we are proud of in this club’

Thomas Tuchel is backing Romelu Lukaku to propel Chelsea to the next level after the Belgian striker secured a $135 million move that will allow him to “finish his story at Stamford Bridge”.

Having first arrived as a teenager in 2011 before moving on to Everton three years later, Lukaku returned to the Premier League on Thursday in a transfer that makes him the most expensive player of all time in terms of cumulative transfer fees. The deal with Inter Milan is also Chelsea’s record outlay on a player. Tuchel’s demeanor would suggest it was money well spent.

The Chelsea manager beamed through his press conference ahead of Crystal Palace’s opening weekend visit to Stamford Bridge, joking that he had wanted to sign not only Lukaku and Erling Haaland but Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski to play in behind them. When it was put to him that they had missed out on Messi too he lodged his tongue firmly in his cheek: “Yeah, yeah we missed a lot of opportunities out there on the transfer market. That’s why you find me very upset. We don’t know how we can continue!”

In reality he seems more than pleased to have signed Lukaku, whose outstanding form in Serie A last season helped Inter Milan end Juventus’ lengthy dominance in Italy (don’t forget you can catch all of this season’s Serie A action on Paramount+). In terms of his playing style and personality the new signing was offered the most glowing of appraisals, not least due to his ability to solve the conversion difficulties that Tuchel believed was the most frustrating problem of his first half season at Chelsea.

“We were looking for a certain profile,” said Tuchel. “Romelu feels confident to play physical, to play with the back towards the goal but he is also very, very strong in using his speed. This will always be a key figure in our game, to be strong in ball wins and offensive transition. This is what the league demands and what we demand of ourselves: we don’t want to be only a ball possession team, we don’t want to be only a defensive team, we don’t want to be the team that only plays long balls. 

“We have the feeling that Romelu has a big variety of strengths. He is strong in the air, he will give us a new power when we cross from the side and I don’t think we have to change our style of play to make him shine. He has a charisma. He is at a good age. He is a leader and hopefully he will be one of our leaders now.”

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For Lukaku moving to Chelsea has the feel of a career coming full circle, the wonderkid who arrived in west London as a highly touted 18 year old returning as one of the most devastating attackers in the game. Certainly, his sense of unfinished business convinced him that the time was right to depart Inter, who were extremely reluctant to let him go despite the financial chaos engulfing the San Siro.

As for his new club, he offers that sprinkling of quality in the one area of the pitch where they were perhaps lacking last season, one in which Jorginho ended as their top Premier League scorer thanks to seven penalties. Tuchel insisted he did not want to conduct major surgery on the European champions but believes Lukaku’s familiarity with the club will make for an easy fit.

“He was super hungry, he did everything to take this little chance to make it happen,” said the Chelsea manager. “He had a huge impact at Inter. He was a huge player with all the responsibility on his shoulder and with a big title for Inter in the last season. It was actually very important to us, his desire to rejoin Chelsea and finish his project and story in the way he wants for himself. 

“We have a strong group that is defined with a strong bond and a certain attitude to be able to help each other out and to support each other. We think that Romelu, by coming from the academy [Lukaku actually was originally acquired by Chelsea at 18 from Anderlecht] and having always Chelsea in his heart, is the perfect addition to our group. He embodies all that we are proud of in this club and on our team. 

“We are very happy with the attitude and the mentality of the group and we want to protect it. It’s not a given that a group works like this group and this is a very precious thing. This can be decisive in football. In my opinion it is. 

“It was not about bringing the most possible players into this group, it’s about we have to be sure that the player is good enough, talented enough, is in the right state of mind, that he has something to give from his personality that improves us. We were as sure as we could be – any transfer there are always issues and doubts – but we were very, very sure with Romelu because he knows the club and he knows what Chelsea are all about.”

Lukaku’s second Chelsea debut will have to wait, he is currently self isolating ahead of joining training next week and likely playing against Arsenal. In the meantime that will offer Tammy Abraham a chance to impress his suitors in England and abroad with Tuchel confirming there was “no news” over a potential departure with Roma in talks and Arsenal monitoring his situation.

“We have a good relationship, he is our player and he is in the squad for tomorrow,” said Tuchel. “He has the chance to play and be decisive for Chelsea. This is where the focus is. 

“The next days after that we will see what happens, what Tammy’s wish is and what are the possibilities. But right now there is no news for his situation.”



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