Thomas Tuchel has confirmed that Romelu Lukaku is back in the Chelsea squad after being dropped from the Blues’ plans following a controversial interview with Italian media.
The Belgian striker was left out of a thrilling 2-2 draw with Liverpool after suggesting in comments to Sky Sport Italia that he had not wanted to leave Serie A champions Inter in the summer of 2021 and was frustrated with the role he is being asked to fill in a different tactical system at Stamford Bridge.
Tuchel opted to take Lukaku out of the firing line for a high profile Premier League fixture, but is happy to have cleared the air with his £98 million ($132m) frontman and will consider the 28-year-old for the first leg of a Carabao Cup semi-final clash with London rivals Tottenham on Wednesday.
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What has been said?
Tuchel has told reporters when asked about the Lukaku saga: “First of all, we are happy that we took the time to look calmly on it, this is what we did. He apologised and is back in the squad for training today. The most important thing was to understand and believe it was not intentional.
“There was never the slightest behaviour against the team. These are very important points to understand that it is not that big as people or you want it to be. It is also not small but small enough to stay calm, to accept an apology and to move on.
“He is aware of what happened and he created and feels the responsibility to clean the mess up but there may still be a smell of course. We are happy that he is our player and we will protect him. If someone strongly disagrees, this is about the team with everything we do.
“He is very committed. That is why it was so surprising to me. He scored against Villa and then the next game but he was there and decisive. I never, before the interview, had the slightest doubt that he was not committed. He is an emotional guy, he does not hold back with his opinion. We should not just blame him and point on the negative side of it, we have to adapt. It created some noise that you don't want but there are zero doubts in his commitment to the team.”
Anything else from Tuchel?
While there are still questions hanging over Lukaku and his long-term future in west London, Tuchel is confident that a proven performer was not looking to cause trouble in the Chelsea camp or push for another move during the January window.
The German tactician added: “I have read more difficult quotes to cope with in previous years as a coach. He was not happy beachside he was injured and had Covid but he wants to score for us, make us successful and that is pretty much it. I don't see any misunderstanding in communication. That is why I was surprised, and still am. He's our number nine and I cannot say any more.
“Was the intention to create trouble? To leave the club? I don't know, put pressure on the coach? No. Of course he should have known better but that is why we have cleared the air together.”
The bigger picture
Lukaku had netted twice in as many games for Chelsea prior to taking in another enforced absence, with his goal tally for the season taken to seven in all competitions.
He will be hoping that there are many more to come, with Tuchel looking for one of the most fearsome forwards in world football to find a way of producing his destructive best regardless of the role he is asked to play.
On talk of Chelsea not getting the best out of their No.9, Tuchel said: “I think the players get the best out of themselves. With Romelu it is not about finding positions, he is a striker, a number nine and that is it. It is about adaption to a different team, team-mates, then comes Covid. We are in a totally normal place with him.”
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