The end of 2021 could have come in different circumstances for Chelsea and their fans. They limped through their matches all of December, winning just twice from six games. That meant the Blues currently sit eight points behind Manchester City, with Liverpool behind them having a game in hand.
Given all the usual struggle of December for #CFC, Tuchel ahead of last four seasons in PL points after 19 games.
17/18 – 39
18/19 – 40
19/20 – 32
20/21 – 29
21/22 – 41
Some perspective. pic.twitter.com/zV7VGHntFZ
— Daniel Childs (@SonOfChelsea) December 29, 2021
However, just when they were getting ready to face the Reds in a pivotal clash this Sunday, a media storm broke out. Excerpts from an interview given by Romelu Lukaku to Sky Sports Italia emerged which roused supporters and observers alike.
"They weren't really prepared for what came out last night."
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) December 31, 2021
What has been said and translated has been dissected enough but the real tragedy has been how fondly and almost…teary-eyed he spoke of having to leave Inter and his hopes of rejoining them one day in the future. The most unsurprising thing in all of this is he had done this before, and Chelsea now have a mammoth task of handling the fallout over the coming days.
DAMAGING FOR ALL PARTIES
First things first, the interview happened around three weeks ago, meaning it was the time when Lukaku was injured. That was followed by him contracting COVID, which meant missing a further bunch of games. Thomas Tuchel also insisted that it was easy to take the comments out of context in order to make headlines.
But the manager had to admit that they brought unnecessary “noise we don’t need.” Tuchel also wanted to stress the important training, sleeping, eating, and all the usual for Lukaku to get better, as the Belgian had expressed his frustrations of not being entirely happy with the team’s tactical system.
Lukaku’s relationship with Chelsea fans is seemingly hanging by a thread now. There were a lot of things to dislike and ponder upon. His closeness with life at Inter, how he would have stayed if a new contract was given, the top three clubs where he saw himself (Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, in case anyone’s wondering) and of course, his wish to return to Inter and win more.
Lukaku to Sky: “There are 3 teams at top level: Barcelona, Real, Bayern. All the players dream of them, that's the truth. I thought I was going to one of those clubs after Inter".
"This didn’t happened and I said: there is only one club where I can imagine myself, it's Chelsea”. pic.twitter.com/kZwfdYl4kB
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) December 31, 2021
It cannot be fun to hear your heavyweight summer signing not considering you as one of the best clubs in Europe, especially when you just won the Champions League.
No doubt this interview will follow Lukaku and the club for a while, with each subpar performance from him being analysed further. All kinds of experts and onlookers will weigh in as to what went down behind the scenes and where his mind is currently.
There’s a lot of work to be done by both player and club in order to downplay the situation and focus once again in order to put a poor run of games behind them as soon as possible. But the whole complaining thing does have a bit of history, especially with Lukaku involved.
NOT THE FIRST TRANSGRESSION
Manchester United supporters are having a sense of deja vu regarding the whole Lukaku situation and with good reason. Towards the end of the 2018-19 season, there was growing friction between supporters and Lukaku regarding his work rate, physique and of course, that infamous “first touch” issue.
Romelu Lukaku never wanted to join Manchester United
The only reason he signed for #MUFC was due to Raiola wanting an agency fee of £15m that Chelsea baulked at the idea of paying.
This led to Lukaku sacking his then agent Mino Raiola. Chelsea was his main priority at the time. pic.twitter.com/pTGQvwPMt3
— Paddy Keogh (@OddsOnFPL) December 31, 2021
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s appointment in early 2019 signaled the end for Lukaku but not before some very unsavoury details emerged in the public view. He was left out of the manager’s first two squads with reports stating that he was angling for a transfer away. In August of that same year, Lukaku was said to be internally reprimanded over leaking player training data to social media.
That seemingly caused a rift between player and manager, with the former training with Anderlecht before his big move to Inter materialized. Lukaku has always maintained that he was made a scapegoat in the whole affair, but his relationship with the fans was clearly beyond repair.
Just this past summer, there was a great wrangle regarding his future amid contract talks. Inter were not in a position of great financial strength when Lukaku sought a new extension. He was certainly entitled to as well, given his stellar two seasons in Italy culminating in winning the Serie A.
Lukaku to Sky: “I’m always thinking about Milano, Milano, Milano… Inter fans are the best in the world. I love the city and the best moment of my career was at Inter. I am in love with Italy – I have Inter in my heart”. 🔵 #CFC pic.twitter.com/bfLb6Mdpr2
— Fabrizio Romano (@FabrizioRomano) December 31, 2021
However, the cash-strapped club failed to meet Lukaku’s demands and with Chelsea coming in, he sealed his return to Stamford Bridge. Now that things have hit a rocky patch, Lukaku’s emotional appeal to Inter fans with his constant support for the club, watching matches, desire to return, et al has been met with stonewalled rejection from Inter’s Curva Nord fan group.
Curva Nord message for Lukaku: “Those who escape when there’s rain don’t count.
The ones that count are those that remain when it storms” pic.twitter.com/7mdbPsdPTg
— Siavoush Fallahi (@SiavoushF) December 31, 2021
These incidents have burned quite a few bridges in the past, and now look to have lit the fuse for another one.