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big call Thomas Tuchel had to stand up to his 'bad egg' Romelu Lukaku or his authority was gone

Boss Thomas has to lay down a marker to sniping Lukaku

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Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea is embraced by Thomas Tuchel, Manager of Chelsea as he is substituted. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea is embraced by Thomas Tuchel, Manager of Chelsea as he is substituted. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea is embraced by Thomas Tuchel, Manager of Chelsea as he is substituted. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

LONG before the plug was pulled on his Manchester United career, Romelu Lukaku had been indelibly cast as one of the 'bad eggs' at Old Trafford.

A £75 million signing from Everton in the summer of 2017, Lukaku's 42 goals in two seasons at Old Trafford would suggest he delivered where it mattered most - and yet that was not the reason why he was hastily ushered towards the exit door.

In his final weeks at the club, he was training away from the first-team squad alongside fellow flop Alexis Sanchez, with persistent leaks suggesting he was not the kind of individual United wanted, damaging his reputation in graphic fashion.

Gary Neville and Roy Keane were among those who publicly questioned Lukaku's commitment and work rate to United, with Neville's tweet after the Belgian striker was sold to Inter Milan leaving little to the imagination.

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Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku.

Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku.

Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku.

"I'm delighted he's left," declared Neville. "I won't be happy until every, single one of them that think they are better and bigger than the club and don't want to be here are gone!

"Nothing at all about his nationality or him not being a good player. He will always score goals."

Neville also suggested Lukaku was contributing to a 'contagious' lack of professionalism at United after the striker admitted he was overweight, with his reputation in English football seemingly shattered beyond repair as he left for Inter in 2019.

What happened next suggested United's treatment of Lukaku was as big a problem as his personality.

Inter boss Antonio Conte changed Lukaku's diet after his arrival, got the striker into top shape and helped him to become the most prolific marksman in Serie A.

A title-winning success last season was the crowning glory for a striker who became too valuable a commodity for Inter to retain.

Chelsea offered an eye-watering £97.5 million last summer to bring the big Belgian back to Stamford Bridge for a second spell at the club.

It seemed like the perfect marriage as the team that had just lifted the Champions League added a striker who was guaranteed to score goals and appeared to be the finished product.

Injuries and his spell on the sidelines with Covid have hampered Lukaku's progress over the last few months, yet few saw what was coming over the last few days.

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He knew his explosive interview with Italian TV would cause chaos with his employer, as he went public to claim he was 'not happy' with the way he has been used at Chelsea , with these comments naturally viewed as a serious swipe at boss Thomas Tuchel.

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Thomas Tuchel, pictured, revealed his dissatisfaction with Romelu Lukaku’s recent interview on Friday (Nick Potts/PA)

Thomas Tuchel, pictured, revealed his dissatisfaction with Romelu Lukaku’s recent interview on Friday (Nick Potts/PA)

Thomas Tuchel, pictured, revealed his dissatisfaction with Romelu Lukaku’s recent interview on Friday (Nick Potts/PA)

Lukaku is known for his self-confidence and an inner belief that many have mistaken for arrogance, yet he is also a shrewd manipulator - and he confirmed as much with his interview that has rocked the Chelsea boat in alarming fashion.

Premier League clubs rarely allow their star names to speak to the media with such freedom these days and Lukaku's interview with Sky Italy highlighted why the top clubs take such a protective stance in an era when controlling the narrative has become a part of communications strategy.

So to see Chelsea's record signing criticising manager Tuchel, insisting he never wanted to leave Inter last summer, suggesting he wants to return to Italy and urging Inter's prized forward Lautaro Martinez to avoid a move to Chelsea, was a remarkable hat-trick to behold.

Unsurprisingly, Tuchel's press conference ahead of today's crucial game against Liverpool was dominated by Lukaku's tsunami of headline-making comments.

The Chelsea boss was unable to defend the striker who had piled the pressure on him at a time when he is already facing a mounting crisis.

Tuchel was accused of failing to control the big egos in the Paris Saint-Germain dressing room during his spell in charge of the French club and now, the biggest name in his Chelsea pack has cast fresh doubt over the German's ability to manage star names.

On the back of a horrible run of results that has seen Chelsea edged out of the Premier League title race, this was the last thing Tuchel needed - and yet Lukaku knew what he was doing when let off his verbal firebombs.

As was the case when Mo Salah gave interviews to media in Madrid and sparked rumours he wanted to leave Liverpool last year, Lukaku and his agent, Federico Pastorello, were aware of what they were doing when they took part in this interview.

And given the cutting nature of the striker's comments, it can only be assumed that he is angling for a move away from Chelsea to secure the big-money windfall that would be generated by yet another transfer.

"We don't like it of course. It brings noise that we don't need and it's not helpful," conceded Tuchel, when asked about Lukaku's snipes at him and Chelsea.

"We don't want to make more out of it than it is. It's easy to take lines out of context, shorten lines, make headlines and then realise later that it is not so bad and maybe not what he meant. We need a calm environment and focus and this does not help."

Tuchel's authority has been undermined by a player who clearly believes he can take on his manager in a public battle, and emerge as the winner.

A firebrand, total-control leader like Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho would doubtless banish Lukaku from his team for a spell after such an untimely public outburst.

While Tuchel needs Lukaku like never before on a day when Chelsea's title challengewas on the line against a title rival, there comes a point when a manager needs to remind dissenters that he calls the shots and Tuchel took that chance by dropping his star striker for Chelsea's biggest game of the season.

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