Romelu Lukaku to Chelsea FC: Thomas Tuchel hails ‘real No9’ with £97.5m club-record transfer imminent – Evening Standard


homas Tuchel is convinced he has landed one of the deadliest strikers on the planet, after Romelu Lukaku said goodbye to Inter Milan ahead of his £97.5million move to Chelsea.

The Belgium international underwent part of his medical in Italy on Monday before jetting off to complete the formalities of his return to Stamford Bridge. His arrival is set to be confirmed before the European champions’ opening Premier League game of the season, against Crystal Palace, on Saturday.

And Lukaku’s arrival has pushed Tammy Abraham closer to the exit door, with Roma emerging as leading contenders for the England striker’s signature.

Tuchel said: “Romelu is one of the guys like [Erling] Haaland at Dortmund, [Robert] Lewandowski at Bayern Munich, Harry Kane at Tottenham, who is a real No9 who loves to score and who has a presence in the box. That is not a secret. The sentence is easy to repeat for any coach in the world.

“He is the kind of profile we’re looking for, and if it is possible to convince agents and clubs, we will do our best.”

It is now only a matter of time before Lukaku’s comeback is confirmed, seven years after leaving the club where he was an academy starlet.

The 28-year-old and his advisors will finalise his comeback when he flies to England, with Tuchel celebrating the key signing he believes Chelsea needed to mount a genuine title challenge to champions Manchester City this season.

The German manager was adamant he had to add a top-class striker to his team, informing Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia of the elite players on his wanted list. That list included Haaland, Kane and Sergio Aguero before they closed in on a move for Lukaku late last month.

“We lost Olivier Giroud, who played a crucial role in the club,” Tuchel told Sky Sports. “He was the kind of profile who likes to play with his back to goal, who likes to hold up balls, who creates space for Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic, who is ready to fight physically with defenders.

“This is the kind of profile that we don’t have in our squad right now and that we are looking for. It’s still not the moment to talk about names, because we have nobody signed yet and we will show all the respect to other clubs.”

Negotiations for Lukaku moved quickly last week, with Chelsea first seeing a player-plus-cash offer, including Marcos Alonso, rejected by Inter.

A full cash bid of £97.5m was accepted by the Italian champions after Lukaku made it clear he wanted a return to his former club.

Tuchel also wants to sign Sevilla defender Jules Kounde this summer, but a large part of Chelsea’s transfer business will revolve around player exits. Abraham is set to leave, with Jose Mourinho now emerging as a leading suitor to threaten Arsenal and West Ham’s hopes of signing the 23-year-old.

Tuchel quickly lost faith in Abraham after taking over in January, starting him just four times and leaving him out of the squad for the Champions League Final.

Atalanta have also been monitoring his situation, while Arsenal and West Ham are among the English clubs interested in a player valued at £40m.

Saints manager Ralph Hasenhuttl said: “Armando is a very talented player who we were impressed by last season. He is young, but he comes now with a full season of experience in senior football with a good team, and he brings a lot of qualities that can help us. I know how highly regarded he is by Chelsea, and I think this will be a good place for him to continue his own development.”