Romelu Lukaku’s Chelsea future is in doubt after he told Italian reporters he was “not happy” at Stamford Bridge.
The Belgian questioned manager Thomas Tuchel’s tactics and was subsequently dropped for the Blues’ Premier League game against Liverpool on Sunday.
The sensational interview – filmed at the beginning of December – stunned European football and leaves many wondering what’s next for Lukaku.
He remains one of the most prolific strikers in European football, scoring 24 league goals last season to fire Inter Milan to the Serie A title.
Here, Mirror Football considers three options Lukaku has… including a shock move to Chelsea’s Premier League rivals.
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Reunion with Conte
According to Italian newspaper La Gazette dello Sport, Lukaku may join Antonio Conte at Tottenham this summer.
The Chelsea ace played under Conte at Inter last season and has previously praised the Italian coach for revitalising his career after his Manchester United woes.
Lukaku failed to deliver at Old Trafford, scoring just 28 league goals in two seasons. In the same time frame at Inter, he managed 47.
“Every trainer has a different way of coaching, but with Antonio we really learnt how to go to the red zone,” he told The Independent in August.
“That was it… as a player, the Italian game is so different. It’s so tactical and technical. You have to make the right run or movement to get another player free.
“We always had a lot of possession, so we were playing in the opposite half. Most of the time you were back to goal, and everything was going through me.
“I remember having a conversation with Conte about this and he told me if I wasn’t good at that, I wouldn’t play. For me that was an eye-opener.
“Once I mastered that aspect then for me everything became easier. The game would slow down, and I could control the game more and give more assists.”
Tottenham may struggle to afford Lukaku’s significant £97.5million transfer fee, although they could use Harry Kane to negotiate a deal.
The England captain wanted to leave Spurs last summer and, although he’s happy to play under Conte, the opportunity to join Chelsea could be too good to turn down.
From an individual perspective, Kane has achieved plenty in the game. That elusive first major trophy, though, continues to evade him.
Chelsea’s odds of winning silverware are as good as any club’s – bar Manchester City’s – and Kane will be fully aware of that.
The prospect of Lukaku joining Tottenham seems bizarre… but stranger things have happened in the transfer market.
Return to Inter
Nicolò Campo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
If Lukaku decides to leave Chelsea, a return to Inter is his most realistic option.
In his controversial interview, he added: “I would have stayed at Inter even without him [Conte], the problem was the new contract I asked for.
“Last summer I went to talk to the Inter board and I asked for a new contract. I said: ‘I’m 28, I want to plan my life in Italy with a new deal…’
“But Inter said no. Maybe there wasn’t the economic possibility. For me it was difficult to accept.
“If there had been the offer of a new contract from Inter last summer as I wanted… we would not be doing this interview now here from London, but quietly from Milano!
“I’m always thinking about Milano… Inter fans are the best in the world. I love the city and the best moment of my career was at Inter. I am in love with Italy, I have Inter in my heart.”
Lukaku’s interview with Italian reports could be viewed as a “come and get me plea” to Inter, although it’s questionable whether they can afford to re-sign him.
And they may not even want him. Inter are currently four points clear at the top of Serie A and have lost just one league game all season.
The club’s fans are certainly not in favour of a return, making their feelings heard with a huge banner outside of the San Siro.
It read: “It doesn’t matter who runs away in the rain, it matters who stays in the storm. Bye Romelu!”
Lukaku also confessed his love for Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in his interview.
“All the players dream of them, that’s the truth,” he added. “I thought I was going to one of those clubs after Inter.
“This didn’t happen and I said: there is only one club where I can imagine myself, it’s Chelsea.”
All three clubs are unlikely to be interested at this moment in time, though. Barcelona are reportedly more than £1billion in debt, Real are chasing Kylian Mbappe and Bayern already have Robert Lewandowski up front.
Few will doubt Lukaku’s love of Inter after his extraordinary interview, but his affection may not be reciprocated.
Stay at Chelsea
Considering the investment Chelsea made to bring him back and his lack of transfer options, it may be best for Lukaku to stay at Stamford Bridge.
If that scenario unfolds, though, he will need to make it up to his team-mates, Tuchel and – most importantly – the supporters.
Lukaku all but said Chelsea – the reigning European champions – were his fifth choice after Inter, Barcelona, Real and Bayern. What Blues fan wouldn’t be offended by that?
The striker is set to have showdown talks with the club’s hierarchy on Monday and it’s perhaps best for all parties if an amicable agreement can be reached.
“He is our player, there is always a way back, we will clear this behind closed doors and once we have made a decision and Romelu knows, you will maybe know also,” said Tuchel after the Liverpool draw.
“It is not to be discussed now… let’s see. We will decide it tomorrow, have a meeting from there and inform you.”
It’s not too late for Lukaku. If he finishes the season strongly and brings success to Chelsea, all will be forgotten. The pressure, though, is now firmly on him.