The Hard Tackle lists three players Chelsea should target to replace Romelu Lukaku, who could depart from Stamford Bridge this summer.
There have been numerous cases where footballers have returned to their former clubs to address unfinished business, often to success. Diego Costa, Wilfried Zaha and Ian Rush are some of the players who made their mark after going back to their old stomping grounds.
But there have also been instances where stars have struggled to perform to expectations, most notably Paul Pogba. Another player who falls in this category is Romelu Lukaku, who returned to Chelsea last summer in a club-record deal worth nearly £100 million.
The Belgian international was oozing confidence in his first interview, and he was certain that he was going to contribute heavily to Chelsea’s success this season. Club legends also sang praises of Chelsea after the deal’s completion, suggesting Lukaku was the missing link in Thomas Tuchel’s side.
But the 29-year-old was a dud in his debut campaign back at Chelsea, failing to make his mark bar a few noteworthy performances. Lukaku did not help his case either, as distasteful comments in an interview with Sky Italia soured his relations with Thomas Tuchel before Chelsea forced him to apologise publicly in an interview with club media.
So all has not been well between Lukaku and Chelsea, with the former Manchester United striker’s fairytale return turning into a nightmare. And as the summer transfer window approaches, it has become evident that Lukaku wants to leave Chelsea after just one season to return to Inter Milan.
Sealing the second coming at Inter Milan will not be straightforward after Lukaku burned bridges with the Serie A club’s fanbase following his return to Chelsea. But the Nerazzurri are keen on bringing Lukaku back to San Siro in the summer transfer window and are attempting to negotiate a deal with Chelsea.
With the likelihood of Lukaku’s summer departure from Stamford Bridge fairly high, Chelsea will need to scour the market for a top-class replacement. With that in mind, The Hard Tackle looks at three options for Chelsea to consider to replace Romelu Lukaku in the summer transfer window.
The first option on our list would represent the simplest solution for all parties involved, apart from perhaps the potential target himself. But a move to Chelsea could be an attractive option for Lautaro Martinez, even though he has suggested that he wants to remain at Inter Milan beyond the summer transfer window.
With the Nerazzurri in a world of trouble financially, signing Romelu Lukaku will be a tall order, especially with Chelsea unlikely to let the Belgian international go for cheap. And in helping Lukaku return to his old stomping ground, the Blues could land a world-class replacement without burdening Inter Milan.
While Martinez has primarily played in a 3-5-2 formation at Inter Milan, he has the qualities to better adapt to Thomas Tuchel’s preferred system at Chelsea than Lukaku ever managed. While passing is not the Argentine international’s strong suit, he can find a teammate with a long pass and carries the ball much better than his former strike partner.
Martinez’s ability to drift wide to bring his teammates into the attacking moves should also align with Tuchel’s setup, ensuring a more fluid offensive gameplay. But Chelsea will not be the only club chasing the Inter Milan striker’s signature, with Arsenal also keen on signing him this summer. However, the prospect of playing UEFA Champions League football may tip the scales in Chelsea’s favour, as compared to Arsenal.
The next player on our list also fits the bill for Chelsea, although prising him away from his current club might be a cumbersome task for the Blues. We are talking about Patrik Schick, who has constantly risen in stature in the past year.
This time last year, Schick was taking Europe by storm after scoring a wonder goal against Scotland before winning the UEFA Euro 2020 Golden Boot. The performances at the Euros boosted his self-confidence considerably, and the Czech striker enjoyed a brilliant Bundesliga campaign, managing 24 goals in 26 appearances.
So it is no wonder that the 26-year-old has popped up on the radars of clubs across Europe, including Arsenal, Newcastle United and Real Madrid. In addition, Barcelona and Manchester United were also keen on securing the services of Schick before Bayer Leverkusen intervened.
Schick is going nowhere this summer, with Bayer Leverkusen grabbing a firm hold of their star striker. That said, Chelsea will hope to convince him to ditch the Bundesliga club by signing him. And his qualities would make Schick an upgrade on Lukaku, especially in Thomas Tuchel’s system. But with Die Werkself uninterested in selling Schick, a move to Chelsea might not be on the cards.
The last candidate on our list is a left-of-centre name but one that might fit the requirements at Chelsea perfectly. The final player we are talking about is Kelechi Iheanacho, who might not be a heralded option for any big club this summer. But the Leicester City striker might be the ideal replacement for Lukaku.
The Nigerian international did not enjoy a solid 2021/22 campaign, which was in stark contrast to his output in the second half of the 2020/21 season. But his qualities suit Tuchel and his pre-requisites perfectly, with his ability to play on the right-wing adding to his appeal.
Iheanacho is a reliable passer of the ball, and he can cleverly find a teammate in the final third, meaning he is more than just a goalscorer. The Leicester forward can also transform into one of the best strikers in Europe under Tuchel, especially after showing what he is truly capable of during the second half of the 2020/21 season.
So in many ways, Iheanacho is capable of filling Lukaku’s boots at Chelsea. In fact, the former Manchester City striker might be too big to do so, and a move to Stamford Bridge should benefit him and the Blues. So if the pursuit of other strikers fails, turning towards Iheanacho might not be a bad call from Chelsea.