He’s back, probably.
With Chelsea set to rectify another one of their many high profile sales, we could soon see Romelu Lukaku returning to the bridge. The man that was once raw, inconsistent and not quite elite enough for the mighty blues, could now return a genuine world class striker.
At 28 years of age, Lukaku stands amongst only a handful of genuine world class central strikers (or number 9’s), in the modern game. His stature, goals and ability to help propel his team to silverware is no longer in question. Under the guidance of the brilliant former Inter Milan manager, Antonio Conte, Lukaku has perfected varying facets of his game in order to create high demand for his signature. At a supposed £130 million fee, the swing from when he departed for Goodison Park in 2013 is quite amazing.
Erling Haaland, Karim Benzema, Robert Lewandowski & Harry Kane stand with Lukaku as the game best out and out strikers. With so many forwards now opting for versatility, fluidity, false 9 adaptability and wide starting positions, it seems the number 9 could be about to enjoy somewhat of a renaissance. The singular position leaves teams perhaps limited in modern football, with the requirements of a central striker rather straight forward, to score goals. This trait has dipped, slid and varied in its delivery over the years, with the likes of Luis Suárez, Edison Cavani, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuaín still operating within the game, though on their last legs. This array of old school strikers hasn’t really been replaced with a genuine raft of would be superstars to replicate that same role, short of the explosive Erling Haaland. Even the prolific likes of Kylian Mbappé, Mohamed Salah, Son Heung-min & Neymar prefer to operate from wider or deeper positions, with many coaches now actively looking for the main goal getters to be inside or loose forwards.
Last summer saw Roman Abramovich spend approximately £250 million to recruit the likes of Timo Werner, Kai Havertz & Hakim Ziyech to reshape a stuttering attack. Ben Chilwell was also recruited in a frantic summer window. Frank Lampard couldn’t quite unlock the preferred tactical solution, and his replacement, Thomas Tuchel, took both his job and the coveted Champions League crown. Tuchel’s first summer represents an opportunity to adjust his inherited squad accordingly, and it seems an out and out striker to replace the departed Olivier Giroud, is key to his teams evolution.
With a rounded skillet set, potency in front of goal and impressive build up play to bring in those around him, Lukaku could well help bring the best from Timo Werner. Prior to Werners signing, he was deployed from an inside left forest position, behind a central striker, Patrik Schick. His ability to travel at pace and work off a strong central forward will be mirrored if Lukaku were to sign. The added genius of Kai Havertz would also now have a confident and ultra talented striker to set free, and the trio could explode if a deal can be agreed. Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi & Mason Mount would offer good depth, with Tammy Abraham & Hakim Ziyech possibly leaving.
The first punches have been thrown by the Manchester clubs in this curious transfer window, with both keen to refresh their attacking options. Liverpool & Chelsea will surely react, and if Tuchel manages to sign Lukaku, then this could ignite the fiercest title battle in years.