Lukaku interview: Did the Chelsea striker really attack Tuchel's tactics?

Romelu Lukaku Thomas Tuchel Chelsea 2021-22 GFXGetty/GOAL

On Thursday evening, excerpts from Sky Italia's sit-down interview with Romelu Lukaku began to appear online, gaining traction through a host of social media influencers.

In some translations of the Chelsea forward's quotes from Italian into English, it appeared as if Lukaku was criticising Thomas Tuchel's tactics, provoking a backlash among many fans.

Having seen their Premier League title hopes hit hard by injuries and illness in recent weeks, the last thing the club needed was a public spat between their star summer signing and their manager.

However, as GOAL explains below, all wasn't as it initially seemed...

What did Lukaku actually say?

The interview had been arranged with Sky Italia in order to allow Lukaku to fully explain the reasons behind his £97.5 million ($136m) transfer from Inter to Chelsea, which sparked a bitter backlash at San Siro.

The Belgian wanted to apologise for the nature of his departure and he did precisely that: "I hope from the bottom of my heart that I can one day go back to Inter, not right at the end of my career but when I’m still at a good level so we can hopefully win more [trophies]."

However, Lukaku's desire to return to Inter caused less controversy than his reported take on Tuchel.

However, the quotes that first appeared on social media were not as harsh as the words that actually came out of Lukaku's mouth.

"I’m not happy with the situation and that’s only natural,"he told Sky Italia as per Patrick Kendrick, one of Europe's top translators."The head coach has decided to play a different system and I mustn’t let up, I need to keep working hard and be professional.

"I’m not happy with the situation but I’m a grafter and I mustn’t let up."

Then there was the unfortunate timing.

In-person interviews aren't currently allowed in the Premier League due to rapid increase of Covid-19 cases across the United Kingdom, so the date of the recording immediately became a talking point and, as it turned out, the Sky Italia exclusive had actually been filmed three weeks ago.

At that time, Lukaku was still being eased back into first-team action after an ankle injury, which would explain his frustration with his then-lack of game time.

After all, the striker is now back in the starting line-up having also recovered from Covid-19 and has scored in his last two games.

And, after netting in his comeback against Aston Villa on Boxing Day, Lukaku told ESPN Brasil: "Me and the coach, we had a couple of conversations about whatever he wanted from me.

"Obviously, I told him I’m multidimensional. It’s just about having a bit of clarity about how he wants to use me. And whatever he wants from me."

Still, even accounting for the fact that Lukaku's relationship with Tuchel has clearly improved since the interview, it must be said that his comments were clumsy at best.

The talk of returning to Inter was clearly an attempt to repair his relationship with fans still upset by his exit. However, publicly expressing his unhappiness with Tuchel's tactics, even in such a mild manner, was always going to cause controversy.

How has Tuchel reacted?

Tuchel has found it hard to get the best out of Lukaku this season for various reasons.

Last season's Champions League win was founded upon intense pressing off the ball, which is not exactly the 28-year-old's forte.

There's also an issue with Lukaku preferring a more counterattacking style, given the Blues prefer to hoard possession.

However, the Belgium international turned the game after coming on at Villa Park and also opened the scoring in the 1-1 draw with Brighton on Wednesday night, suggesting that the tide is starting to turn.

So, Tuchel really could have done without this social media storm. He was feeling frustrated enough as it was, telling Amazon Prime after the Brighton game "Everything is against us!"

Still, when the German faced the media on Friday morning, he appeared perfectly relaxed, explaining that while the timing of the interview was hardly ideal, he didn't view it as a major problem.

"We don't like it, of course, because it brings noise that we don't need and is not helpful," Tuchel told reporters.
"But on the other side, we don't want to make more out of it than it actually is. You know very well how it is: it's very easy to take lines out of context, to shorten lines to make headlines, then realise later it's not so bad or what he meant.

"I don't feel [that he is] unhappy. If you'd asked me yesterday morning, I would have said that I feel the exact opposite.

"That's why I would say it's a surprise but I am the wrong person to ask. If there is something to discuss, it's behind closed doors, for sure."

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What happens now?

Despite the commotion caused, Lukaku is still expected to lead the line in Sunday's must-win Premier League showdown with third-placed Liverpool at Stamford Bridge.

Furthermore, while there have been reports in Italy of the attacker returning to Inter on loan during the January transfer window, there is no chance of that happening.

Indeed, Chelsea are adamant that Lukaku is not for sale and they will be hoping that with Tuchel having drawn a line under the episode, everyone involved can now quickly move on and work together on getting Chelsea's title bid back on track.