| 10.7°C Dublin

flop buy Romelu Lukaku's days at Chelsea may be numbered as curse of the No.9 jersey strikes again

Tuchel confirmed Lukaku's fall from grace as he left him out of his starting line-up for Sunday's Carabao Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley.

Close

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea battles for possession with Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool during the Carabao Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea battles for possession with Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool during the Carabao Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea battles for possession with Virgil van Dijk of Liverpool during the Carabao Cup Final match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Wembley. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

IT is a jersey that should provide the incumbent with a guarantee of goals and yet Romelu Lukaku is the latest striker to be struck down by the curse of Chelsea's No.9 shirt.

While the trophies may have rolled for Chelsea since sugar-daddy Roman Abramovich transformed the club in the summer of 2003 with his multi-million-pound investment, finding the striker fit to wear one of the club's most iconic shirts has proved to be impossible.

Mateja Kezman, Radamel Falcao, Hernan Crespo, Fernando Torres, Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuain are all on a list of high-profile strikers who have tried and failed to shine in the Blues No.9 shirt.

Throw Adrian Mutu, Andrey Shevchenko and Timo Werner in the list of expensively recruited strikers at Chelsea who didn’t take that poisoned jersey and the cost of their striking flops skyrockets.

Only Didier Drogba, who wore the No.11 jersey for the majority of his time at the club, can be hailed as a true goal scoring great from the most prolific period of success in Chelsea’s history, which throws up an intriguing question.

What happens when a striker who has a proven track record of success is handed the poisoned chalice of leading the Chelsea forward line?

Chelsea great Joe Cole gave his verdict on the debate, as he argued circumstances as much as talent have played a part in the mystery.

“I don’t believe there is any problem with the Chelsea No.9 shirt, but you look at the names that have worn it and there have always been issues,” reflects Cole, speaking at a BT Sport event.

“Torres was not the player he was at Liverpool for whatever reason and then you look at Morata and that didn’t work out either.

“Going back to my time at the club and you had players who didn’t quite settle at Chelsea in that position and the story has gone on. It is a tough one to explain.

“For me, Lukaku can still be the answer for Chelsea, but he needs to sort out what is going on between his ears.

“Forget about how great it was for him in Italy at Inter Milan as he has a chance to follow in the footsteps of his idol Didier Drogba here at Chelsea.

“Leave the nonsense behind because we know he is capable of being the complete striker when he is at it.

Sunday World Newsletter

Sign up for the latest news and updates

This field is required This field is required

“What we have seen so far from Lukaku is a striker who is not happy in the team and he even said that in his interview a few weeks ago.”

The interview Cole refers to may well be reflected upon have been the beginning of the end of Lukaku’s second spell at Chelsea, with the striker unloading his pessimism over the methods of manager Thomas Tuchel on Italian TV last month.

Lukaku’s frustration at the way he is being used by Tuchel were made clear in an outburst that resulted in a club fine and an apology on the club's media channels.

Yet the problem has not got away, with Chelsea forced to find ways to win without their £97.5million club-record signing throughout this season.

The latest twist came this week, as Tuchel was compelled to drop Lukaku from his side for the Champions League game against Lille on Tuesday after he touched the ball just seven times in last month's game against Crystal Palace.

It was a damning statistic that appeared to confirm the striker has lost the appetite to win his battle at Chelsea for now, with Tuchel confirming his fall from grace as he left him out of his starting line-up for Sunday's Carabao Cup final against Liverpool at Wembley.

Lukaku has averaged a little over 26 goals for his numerous clubs over the last eight years, but he doesn’t look likely to get close to that at Chelsea this season after scoring just ten times in 29 appearances this season.

And according to Thierry Henry, who has been a close confidant of Lukaku since working with him in his role as assistant coach to the Belgian national team, this was a marriage destined to end quickly.

“Right from the start I raised a question to myself, would he fit into this team? For Rom to adapt to the way Chelsea play, it takes time, it’s not an easy one,” stated Arsenal legend Henry.

“Is it normal that he only has seven touches (against Palace)? No, that’s also not normal, regardless of if the coach likes you or not. That shouldn’t happen.

“They need to move forward on that but it’s a tough one to read. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know how that happens in 90 minutes, but what’s the solution?

“The solution is for him to find a solution to make sure he can adapt to the way they play.

“They like to press, to be active and to change the front three. He likes to stay in the middle so it makes it very difficult for him to adapt to the situation.

"So I ask again... why did you go and get him if he doesn’t fit into your team?”

It’s an analysis that fuels the suspicion that Lukaku’s woes at Chelsea are a little more of the terminal variety than a temporary blip in form.

And unless Tuchel finds a way to accommodate the player he blew his entire transfer budget on last summer, the striker's exit from the club may become inevitable this summer.

If this is to be the final chapter of Lukaku's story in English football, his reputation as a player boasting an attitude problem that dwarfs his considerable talents enhanced.

That was the epitaph placed on his spell at Manchester United, with the Old Trafford club eager to off-load a player labelled 'a big egg' long before he was sold to Inter Milan.

Now those attitude issues are being raised again and while Lukaku still has time to ensure this story has an alternative ending, the clock is ticking in the latest Chelsea No.9 floundering under the weight of expectations.

CHELSEA’S No.9 PROBLEM

Chelsea have spent big money to sign a host of high-profile strikers to wear their No.9 jersey over the last two decades, but these stats confirm that none of them have found their scoring touch:

Hernan Crespo (£16.8million in 2003) - 73 games (25 goals)

Mateja Kezman (£5.3million in 2004) - 41 games (7 goals)

Fernando Torres (£50million in 2011) - 172 games (45 goals)

Radamel Falcao (loan in 2015) - 12 games (1 goals)

Alvaro Morata (£60million in 2017) - 72 games (24 goals)

Gonzalo Higuain (loan in 2019) - 19 games (5 goals)

Romelu Lukaku (£97.5million in 2021) - 20 games (10 goals)

Download the Sunday World app

Now download the free app for all the latest Sunday World News, Crime, Irish Showbiz and Sport. Available on Apple and Android devices


Privacy