“Romelu is one of the guys like [Erling] Haaland at Dortmund, Robert Lewandowski at Bayern, Harry Kane at Tottenham, who is a real number nine who loves to score and who has a presence in the box. That is not a secret.”
The words of Thomas Tuchel ahead of Chelsea’s UEFA Super Cup clash with Villarreal on Wednesday night. A little under 24 hours later, the Blues have completed the signing of the Belgian striker for a club-record £97.5million.
What also isn’t a secret over the past eight months is that the Blues have needed a world class striker to take Tuchel’s team over the top and thrust themselves into the favourites to win the Premier League title this season. Chelsea’s squad is already packed with immense talent and now they have the frontman to match.
That is not a slight on the current forwards at the club. Did they underperform last season? Yes. Were there mitigating circumstances? Of course.
But when you bring in one of the best four strikers on the planet, your squad is quite clearly going to improve. Chelsea have gone from a team that some might have considered to have been in the title equation to now a team that absolutely has the firepower to de-throne Manchester City at the top of the domestic game.
It was a question that was raised in the press box at Windsor Park on Wednesday evening ahead of the Villarreal game, which Chelsea won on penalties after the game finished 1-1 in extra time.
“Are Chelsea going to win the league this year?”
City, with £100million man Jack Grealish, are of course favourites. They also need a number nine striker with Sergio Aguero having left the Etihad on a free transfer at the end of last season. Their spending might not be over either as Pep Guardiola wants to bring another elite frontman, Harry Kane, to the club amid his desire to leave north London.
Complete that move and City could win the title at a canter for the next three years. But you Better believe Chelsea will be there or thereabouts with Lukaku in their ranks.
Chelsea have the elite frontman they craved, with an elite coach in Tuchel, with an elite and Champions League winning squad at Cobham. The recipe for success is now there for all to see, it is the job of Tuchel to mix all the ingredients together and a bake a Premier League winning cake.
Lukaku was clearly happy in Italy with Inter Milan. He had been the spearhead for Antonio Conte’s side that had just ended 11-years of Juventus dominance in Serie A. The 28-year-old was adored at the San Siro, he didn’t need to leave.
But when Chelsea came calling, that means something different to Lukaku. The Blues brought him to London as a teenager from Anderlecht in 2011 as an 18-year-old and the striker said it was a dream come true. While it didn’t quite pan out the first time around, the striker is a very different player from then.
He is also a vastly improved player from the one that we saw at Manchester United when he was last in the Premier League. That team under Jose Mourinho was ponderous, slow, created little and there was a vast chasm of a gap between midfield and the United number nine.
Now, he will have Mason Mount, Kai Havertz, Hakim Ziyech, Christian Pulisic, Timo Werner, Callum Hudson-Odoi or whoever it may be buzzing around him creating chances. We even saw it on Wednesday night in Belfast with Ziyech whipping balls into the box that Lukaku will absolutely feast on when the Moroccan recovers from his unfortunate injury.
Lukaku has bagged 231 goals since he left Chelsea in 2014 to move to Everton, where he has continued to progress year on year on year on year to eventually blossom into the world class striker that he is today.
Chelsea have had to pay top dollar to bring back their former frontman, something they have done before with players but if you want to be the best then you have to pay the best.
All eyes will now be on Tuchel and how he gets the best out of Lukaku. It could be an absolute blast.