Chelsea have been asked to fork out €120 million for Inter Milan forward Romelu Lukaku this summer. But is he a risk worth taking?
Romelu Lukaku’s remarkable turnaround at Inter Milan remains one of the finest arcs for any of their current generation of footballers. Once an afterthought at Chelsea, the Belgian forward has established himself as among the best in the world, with an unprecedented amount of success at Inter.
After all, Lukaku was the central figure to the Nerazzurri‘s incredible 2020/21 campaign that saw them finally put an end to Juventus’ hegemony in Italian football and seal the Scudetto for the first time in over a decade. During his time, the former Manchester United star also established himself as Belgium’s all-time top-scorer with a whopping 64 goals in less than 100 appearances.
But with success often follows tragedy and that might be the case with Lukaku, as he faces a precarious situation at Inter Milan, following the shocking departure of head coach Antonio Conte. The club is in financial disarray and has already offloaded Achraf Hakimi to Paris Saint-Germain, as they prepare for a new era under the leadership of Simone Inzaghi.
The Belgian might not be a part of that legacy, though, with a report from Tuttomercato citing interest from former club Chelsea. It appears the Premier League giants are prepared to take advantage of the player’s current situation and prise him away from Milan. Although Inter are unwilling to part ways with Lukaku, they have set a price tag of around €120 million, handing Chelsea a decision to make.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will assess whether Lukaku’s potential return to Stamford Bridge will be feasible, not only for the player but also for the club as they look to challenge for the Premier League title next season.
Romelu Lukaku in England
Romelu Lukaku’s Chelsea career began in 2011 when he joined the club in a €15 million move from RSC Anderlecht. Unfortunately, he was one of the many victims of the club’s notoriously loan policy that saw him fail to get a look-in into the first team, with the striker eventuating joining West Brom in 2012.
It proved to be the turning point of his career, with Lukaku scoring 17 goals in 32 appearances for the Baggies. His performances did earn him two appearances for Chelsea, but then-coach Jose Mourinho decided to offload the striker yet again. He joined Everton on a season-long loan deal before the move was made permanent in 2014, for a fee of €35 million.
Lukaku was highly successful at Goodison Park. In 166 competitive matches, the Belgian netted as many as 87 goals, thriving under the tutelage of Roberto Martinez, his current Belgium boss.
Lukaku’s performances eventually earned him a big-money move to Manchester United in 2017. A fee of €84 million put immense pressure on the former Anderlecht prodigy, ultimately leading to a dip in form, as the striker struggled to gel well alongside the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Lukaku’s track record at Old Trafford wasn’t exactly poor by any means. But the immense pressure one would associate with any Man United newcomer got the better off him, with the club deciding to sanction his €74 million sale to Inter Milan in 2019, a move that would change the trajectory of the forward’s career.
A revival at Inter Milan
Romelu Lukaku was brought in at Inter Milan by former Chelsea coach Antonio Conte. The Italian mastermind was quite familiar with what the Belgian had to offer, having followed him closely during his short spell in England.
It was an extremely risky move by the Nerazzurri, but it was one that paid off, as the former Everton starlet settled in effortlessly in Serie A. He instantly formed a striking partnership with Lautaro Martinez, with the Argentine offering the speed and technicality to Lukaku’s strength and imposing presence in the final third, ultimately adding another dimension to Inter Milan’s attack.
However, what has been particularly impressive about Lukaku’s arc in Serie A is the way the player has improved himself, rather than settling in quickly to his surrounding. At Manchester United, the Belgian was often vilified for his poor first touch. But under Conte, the 28-year-old has worked significantly on his technical abilities and is now capable of dropping deep to make the play.
His improvements are backed up by numbers too, with Lukaku netting 23 goals in his debut season in Serie A. It was followed by a 24 goal campaign that helped Inter Milan seal the Scudetto. Only this time, the former United forward had also registered ten assists compared to his two in the 2019/20 season, thus indicating his drastic improvement when it comes to building the play in the final third.
A fabled return to Stamford Bridge – A risk worth taking for the Blues?
Romelu Lukaku does not command the same level of affection or romanticism to Chelsea fans as his compatriot Eden Hazard. The striker had left Stamford Bridge way back in 2014, so the sense of nostalgia would perhaps be lost or at least overshadowed by sporting motives.
Quite indeed, the Inter Milan superstar is ideally just an alternative to top target, Erling Haaland. The Borussia Dortmund star is wanted by Thomas Tuchel, but his exorbitant price tag rules the Blues out of contention. The same can be said for Harry Kane, although it has more to do with Tottenham not being willing to offload their star player to their direct London rivals.
It makes Lukaku the ideal alternative. He comes from a different league but has the experience of playing in England. In fact, the 28-year-old has a stellar record in the Premier League, with 113 goals in just 252 league appearances.
It will also not be an understatement to say that there are very few attackers out there who are more suited to the Premier League’s brand of football than Romelu Lukaku. He has the physical superiority about him, which is complemented by an equally impressive heading and goalscoring prowess, making him the perfect target man.
In addition, the Inter Milan star has gained a reputation for being a true leader on the pitch. It should be a useful trait for Chelsea as they prepare for life without Thiago Silva and Cesar Azpilicueta, both in the final phase of their respective careers. The presence of an experienced star like Lukaku will be important, particularly among a young and relatively inexperienced attacking setup.
From a tactical perspective, the 28-year-old has what it takes to become Chelsea’s answer to their goalscoring problems. His finishing prowess should come in handy, especially with the creative supply of players like Mason Mount, Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic. Lukaku’s hard-working nature tunes in well with Tuchel’s intense first line of press while the player is also familiar with the wing-back system that was prevalent under Conte.
It all adds up to make a solid case for Romelu Lukaku being the perfect option for Chelsea in their bid to add a quality number nine this summer. A fee of €120 million is not a considerable gamble on any player, but given the forward’s quality, experience and tactical prowess, he is a gamble worth taking for Thomas Tuchel and Co.