Thomas Tuchel wins £97m battle to break Roman Abramovich Chelsea curse


The foreshadowing of a consistently chaotic 2022 actually began in the final few days of 2021. Shortly after the Blues had disappointingly drawn 1-1 to Brighton that saw Graham Potter celebrate in the Stamford Bridge dugout (an image we would see replicated), a controversial interview dropped.

Romelu Lukaku had given an interview to Sky Italia without Chelsea’s knowledge and quickly the bombshell lines hit. The Belgian citing disagreement with Thomas Tuchel over his tactics and adoration for Inter Milan, the club he had recently left for £97million in August to rejoin Chelsea .

This caused a storm towards a Chelsea player unrivalled in recent years. Lukaku’s name was soon soured amongst supporters, with the heat becoming so much the striker was dropped from Tuchel’s squad against Liverpool on the opening weekend of the year. Tuchel’s man-management became the biggest plus of this saga, coming out of it looking stronger and gaining wider respect from the Chelsea faithful.

“This is a team sport, so it’s not about 10 players serving one player. This is not Chelsea, and this is not football.” Tuchel memorable uttered in a press conference in January not long after a demoralising defeat to Manchester City, one that ended any title aspirations. “Every player serving the team is the highest principle, and this will never change.”

Tuchel soon started trying other players in attack apart from Lukaku who faced a torrent of criticism and abuse online, some that undeniably crossed a line. Lukaku after missing the Liverpool game issued a public apology during an in-house interview with Chelsea TV presenter Lee Parker, staring awkwardly towards the camera.

“To the fans, I’m sorry for the upset that I caused. You guys know the connection that I have with this club since my teenage years so I totally understand you guys being upset,” said Lukaku. “To the manager I apologised and I said it to my team-mates and the board, because I think it was not the right moment (to do the interview). I want to move forward from this and make sure that we start winning football games and I perform for the best team in the best manner.”

Although Lukaku wanted to restore trust with Chelsea fans, the anger did not dissipate for the rest of the season, proving to be the death knell to what was supposed to be a triumphant return to west London. This led all the way to Lukaku being booed by sections of the home crowd against Arsenal three months later.

A year that began with Lukaku angering Chelsea fans and sharing his love for Inter ends with the striker back at the San Siro, on loan for now, but there is little expectation of a meaningful return to Chelsea in 2023.

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