Thomas Tuchel says Romelu Lukaku has returned to Chelsea to “finish his story here” after the striker sealed his club-record move from Internazionale.
Chelsea paid the Italian champions £97.5m for Lukaku, who rejoins the club he left for Everton in 2014. He struggled for opportunities during his first spell at Stamford Bridge, playing only 15 times and failing to score, but has since become one of the world’s outstanding centre-forwards. According to Tuchel, Lukaku was desperate to complete what he started upon initially arriving from Anderlecht a decade ago.
“He was super hungry,” Tuchel said. “He did everything to take this chance to make it happen. Of course he had a huge impact at Inter: he was a huge player with a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, winning a big [Serie A] title for Inter last season. So it was actually very important to us that it was his desire to rejoin Chelsea and to finish his story here in the way that he wanted for himself.
“We have a very strong group, defined by a very strong bond and with a certain attitude to be ready to help each other out. We think that Romelu, coming through here and always having Chelsea in his heart, is the perfect addition because he embodies all that.”
Lukaku will not be able to make his second Chelsea debut when they host Crystal Palace on Saturday because of quarantine rules, but it is hoped he will be available to face Arsenal on 22 August. Tuchel described Lukaku as “one of the best strikers in the world” and explained that the leadership role the Belgian assumed in helping Inter to win their first league title in 11 years, scoring 24 goals in the process, was a major factor when asking him to lead Chelsea’s line.
“He is a true No 9, like for me a No 9 that I always from outside see in a Chelsea shirt,” Tuchel said. “I see Chelsea with strong strikers and strong personalities, physical strikers. For me it’s a perfect fit for Chelsea, this kind of player up front.
“He is happy to take responsibility, he has matured, he has played abroad, he has had success at various big clubs. He will take weight off the shoulders from our younger strikers, from our younger players around him, and I think this is a huge part of the story, that he does not step away and is also happy to make life easier for players around him.”
Hakim Ziyech will also be missing against Palace, but Tuchel said the shoulder injury that forced his withdrawal during the Uefa Super Cup win against Villarreal on Wednesday would not require surgery. “We hope it continues like this and he can be back on the pitch in two weeks,” he said.
N’Golo Kanté is a doubt after what Tuchel described as an issue “from the final”, which Chelsea won on penalties after extra time. “Physically it was the worst thing that could happen to us in the stages we are in right now, to play 120 minutes,” he said.