Chelsea coach Tuchel plans talks with unhappy striker Lukaku

LONDON (AP) — Chelsea coach Thomas Tuchel plans to hold talks with Romelo Lukaku after the striker said he was unhappy at the London club and expressed a wish to rejoin Inter Milan.

In a pre-recorded interview with Sky Italia released on Thursday, the 28-year-old Lukaku said “I’m not happy with the situation” at Chelsea and indicated he didn’t like Tuchel’s style of play.

“Tuchel has chosen to play with another system,” Lukaku said.

Tuchel responded at a news conference on Friday, ahead of Sunday’s Premier League game against Liverpool.

“I will wait to see what Romelu has to say and then we will deal with this,” Tuchel said. “The thing with Romelu is that I don’t think anyone in this building is aware he’s unhappy. That’s why (there is) surprise at the statement. That’s why we need to check with him now, because I can see no reason why it should be like this.”

Lukaku first joined Chelsea in 2011 but spent two years on loan before being sold to Everton in 2014. He returned to Chelsea this past offseason in a deal worth nearly 100 million pounds after he netted 24 Serie A goals to help Inter win the Italian league title for the first time since 2010.

But Lukaku has had a frustrating first season back in London as he was out injured for a month and missed time in December after contracting COVID-19. Now his public comments add an unwanted distraction for Tuchel in the middle of a tight title race.

“We don’t like it, of course, because it brings noise that we don’t need and is not helpful,” Tuchel said. “But on the other side, we don’t want to make more out of it than it actually is.”

Chelsea is second in the Premier League, eight points behind leader Manchester City and with Liverpool one point behind in third place, having played one game less.

“It’s noise we don’t need, we need a calm environment,” Tuchel said. “If it’s an interview from a person of that kind of interest, an important player, I totally understand the process. That’s why it’s a lot of extra noise.”

Tuchel said he believed Lukaku was in good spirits.

“I don’t feel him unhappy; I feel the exact opposite. I would say he is absolutely fine,” Tuchel said. “If there is something to discuss, it’s behind closed doors, for sure. Maybe we can take the time to try to understand what’s going on. Because it does not reflect his daily work, it does not reflect his daily attitude.”

In the interview, Lukaku pledged to give his best for Chelsea but spoke fondly of Inter.

“I won’t give up, I’ll be professional,” he told Sky Italia. “It’s the right time to share my feelings. I have always said that I have Inter in my heart, I know I will return to Inter, I really hope so.”

In two seasons at Inter, Lukaku scored an impressive 64 goals in 95 games overall and became hugely popular with fans. He suggested that he did not want to leave.

“I am in love with Italy, this is the right moment to talk and let people know what really happened,” Lukaku said.

The Belgian has scored a modest seven goals in 18 matches overall this season.

Tuchel joined Chelsea after being fired by Paris Saint-Germain midway through last season and helped Chelsea win the Champions League for the second time in its history.

At PSG he earned a reputation as a powerful motivator who was close to striker Kylian Mbappe, but also as an innovative coach who perhaps tinkered too much with his formations.

His dismissal from PSG followed comments of his own to German broadcaster SPORT1.

The German coach reportedly claimed managing PSG was more akin to being a politician or a sports minister and that he did not receive enough recognition for leading the club to its first Champions League final in 2019.

Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku, center, celebrates with his teammates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the English Premier League soccer match between Chelsea and Brighton at Stamford Bridge Stadium in London, England, Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

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