Graham Ruthven: Lukaku should be Chelsea’s main man if they avoid embargo

Come back home Rom!


The fates of Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata have been intertwined for a while.

Back in the summer of 2017, when the former ended up at Manchester United and the latter signed for Chelsea, their destinations could have been switched. Indeed, it was initially United who wanted Morata and Chelsea who wanted Lukaku.

Going over old ground, Man Utd pulled the plug on their move for Morata after growing frustrated in negotiations with Real Madrid, instead splurging £75 million on Lukaku, a secondary target.

This forced Chelsea to move for Morata, their secondary target. Neither club got what they really wanted.

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Of course, Morata has already been discarded by Chelsea and this summer seems destined to see Lukaku leave United, with the Belgian reportedly unhappy at the role he has played under new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Inter are widely believed to be leading the pursuit for the striker, although the Serie A outfit only seem to be willing if they can offload Mauro Icardi in the process.

With all this in mind, why aren’t Chelsea interested in Lukaku?

He was, after all, the centre forward they wanted two years ago. Since then, Morata, Olivier Giroud, Michy Batshuayi and Gonzalo Higuain have all failed to make the position their own and as the Stamford Bridge move into another new age, most likely under Frank Lampard, they still need a striker.

Lukaku fits the bill. As the third top active goalscorer in the Premier League right now, he is a proven goal-getter at the top level.

With Luka Jovic already a Real Madrid player and Icardi still the subject of doubts over his character, is there really a better available option out there Chelsea at this time?

Man Utd might not wish to sell to a Premier League rival, but the market for a striker valued at somewhere around £60m is always likely to be a shallow one. With the rest of the European elite already sorted for centre forwards, Chelsea could force United’s hand by presenting one of the few offers on the table for the Belgian.

Lukaku’s form for Belgium hints at the heights he could reach if he can find a club side that truly harnesses him. Jose Mourinho never truly understood the qualities of the striker, using him as a targetman to hit with long balls and crosses when he is instead at his best when running towards goal.

While Lampard might not be as keen a footballing philosopher as Maurizio Sarri, it’s difficult to envisage that he would impose a direct style of play should he take over at Chelsea.

He could be the ideal man to get the best out of Lukaku, borrowing some of the ideas used by Roberto Martinez to harness the striker.

Chelsea’s transfer embargo, meted out to them by FIFA earlier this year, has left their summer window in a state of flux. Nobody, not least Chelsea themselves, seems sure of whether they will be able to sign players before the start of the new season with the club’s appeal against the ban currently with the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

If the embargo is held up then that would obviously scupper any move for Lukaku, or any other centre forward for that matter.

Lampard would have to make do with what he already has, and that isn’t a great deal in the attacking positions. Chelsea could feasibly be left short-handed in the final third of the pitch.

It’s understandable that Lukaku wants to leave Man Utd and Inter would appear to be a good fit.

They are a club slowly recovering from a number of years in the wilderness and in Antonio Conte they might just have hired the best Italian coach in the game right now. But, Chelsea might actually be the most natural of destinations for him.

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