Romelu Lukaku says he refused to move to Manchester City in 2020 and only decided to swap Inter Milan for Chelsea when his request for a new contract in Italy was turned down this summer.
In a 29-minute interview with Sky in Italy Recorded earlier in December, Lukaku said he was “not happy” with his situation at Chelsea, questioning Thomas Tuchel’s system and raising the prospect of returning to Inter while still playing at a “fairly good level”.
Tuchel conceded that the comments are “not helpful” as they “make noise that we don’t need”, but claimed the forward looks far from unstable at Chelsea.
In a second part of the interview released on Friday, Lukaku said he decided to stay in Italy last summer and would be there “100%” if the club granted him their wish for a new deal. this summer.
“When I was at Inter, at the end of the first year, I turned down an offer from Manchester City which was higher than Chelsea’s this summer,” Lukaku said.
“I did it because it had only been a year, it wasn’t a good time to leave and I didn’t want to. I wanted to do something good for Inter, because I have to say that the ‘Inter has saved my career to some degree.
“I was in a deep hole at Manchester United, things weren’t going well. I was a big investment for Inter but we did some great things together.
“So the second year after I won the Scudetto I went to talk with the club chiefs and asked for a new contract. I did it because I thought I was 28, my family feels good in Milan, I still have my apartment there, my mom and son could come and live there and we would all feel comfortable.
“But they didn’t want to extend my contract, the possibility was not there. It was hard for me to accept, because in my head I was thinking that I could do a few more years in Milan.”
“In my opinion, there are three absolute best teams in football – Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Every player dreams of playing for one of these teams one day. So I thought that if I ever did. ‘had that possibility, I would sign a new contract with Inter and then go.
“But that didn’t happen, so I figured there was only one team I could see myself in – Chelsea. I didn’t think I would go, but at one point they are came to get me and so I asked [Inter boss Simone] Inzaghi to leave.
“The fact that they didn’t try to get me to sign a new contract bothered me a bit, it even hurt me. If Inter had offered me a new contract, I would have stayed at 100 %. That goes without saying.
“Also, the fact that I hadn’t won anything in England in eight years there bothered me a lot. So it was hard to refuse the chance to come back here with the team that I have supported since I was a child. . “
“Conte was my mentor, now a rival”
Lukaku has opened up about his relationship with Antonio Conte and has repeated on several occasions how the Italian tactician has helped him develop as a player.
Now that they’re both in London, Lukaku says the motivation to prove himself to his former boss gives him new motivation to succeed in England.
“I speak with Conte regularly, not just about football but about life in general,” Lukaku said.
“It hurt me when he left Inter, it was one of the hardest times for me but I didn’t leave because of him. I knew we could still win things at the Inter with Inzaghi.
“I think Spurs’ Conte could do what he did at Inter in Serie A. But he also knows our Chelsea side are really strong. I see him as an opponent in the league, I never have won against him, so that’s an additional motivation for me.
“He had a huge influence on my career, he helped me so much mentally, he taught me to be a professional and to make sacrifices on and off the pitch to be ready to take on any challenge.”
“Tuchel is trying to find the right system”
In the second segment of the interview, Lukaku also expanded on his comments posted on Thursday, where he expressed frustration at his lack of playing time until early December.
The 28-year-old has said Tuchel is trying to get him into Chelsea’s starting lineup and has acknowledged he has to be patient to seize his chance to cement his place in the squad.
“I think I’m at a point where the boss could play me a bit more but I have to respect his decisions, keep working and wait for my time to come,” he said.
“We’re trying to find a middle ground where we can meet, a system that can help the team perform at their best as we are in a complicated situation right now.
“The boss made a choice, I have to keep working and at some point we will chat with Tuchel and see how it goes.”
Analysis: What change is Lukaku referring to?
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Lukaku’s main gripe seems to be a ‘different formation’, but it’s hard to see what change the Belgian is referring to. When Lukaku joined Chelsea, Tuchel was immediately asked what it would mean for the 3-4-2-1 system which has helped them return to the top four and Champions League glory.
Tuchel said in August: “We now have the chance to play with two forwards as well, as they did at Inter with [Lukaku], or continue with three attackers. We will now see how it works. “
Had Lukaku promised Timo Werner a consistent punching partner, someone to go deep in and do the dirty work while he worked key areas in the penalty area and on the defender’s shoulder? For Inter, Lukaku had Lautaro Martinez or Alexis Sanchez by his side for most of the season, but for Chelsea this partnership role is unclear.
Lukaku and Werner have only started together five times this season, and only twice as traditional two forwards. In the first of those two matches, Lukaku and Werner were isolated in a 1-0 home loss to Manchester City, and in the second they narrowly escaped Brentford with a 1-0 victory. Elsewhere, in Lukaku’s absence, Werner had the opportunity to regain form, but didn’t seize it, and Tuchel more than often went for a top three.
Following his return from injury in late November, Lukaku had only minute chunks – eight against Man Utd, 21 against Watford, 45 against West Ham and three against Leeds – choosing to play a false nine to Kai Havertz on multiple occasions.
Tuchel will of course claim he protected his £ 90million signing on his return from injury but like any player Lukaku wants to be on the pitch as much as possible. He said after the win at Villa on Boxing Day: “I think I needed a performance like this today, it was difficult because every player wants to play. The manager has his reasons but I continued to work hard. “