Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has said he “did not like” comments made by Romelu Lukaku after the striker revealed he was unhappy with the current situation at the club and expressed his desire to one day return to former club Inter Milan.
The Belgian – who rejoined the Champions League winners for a club record fee of £97.5 million ($135 million) in August from Inter – was understood to have conducted the interview with Sky Italia earlier in December, though his remarks were only made public yesterday.
Lukaku said that he was “not happy with the situation” at Chelsea, highlighting Tuchel’s decision to play a different formation, before admitting his regret at the manner in which he left Italy in the summer.
“I’m not happy with the situation but it’s my job and I mustn’t give up,” Lukaku said.
“I think it’s right to talk about it [leaving Inter] because I always said that I love Inter and I’ll play for them again … I want to really apologize to the Inter fans because I don’t think I should have left Inter the way I did.
“I hope from the bottom of my heart to go back to Inter and not at the end of my career, but when I’m still at a good enough level to win more trophies,” he added.
In an additional part of the interview released on Friday, Lukaku said that he turned down an offer from Manchester City in the summer of 2020 – “a higher offer than Chelsea’s one” – and had asked for a new contract at Inter that would have seen him “100%” stay had it materialized.
Manchester City did not immediately respond CNN’s request for comment.
Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s crucial match against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, Tuchel expressed his disappointment at the “noise” generated by his forward’s revelations amidst a difficult period for the club.
Earlier this season, Premier League leader Manchester City was five points adrift of Chelsea following a shock 2-0 home defeat by Crystal Palace at the end of October. Since then, City has won 13 more points than Chelsea and 11 more than third-placed Liverpool.
“We don’t like it, of course, because it brings noise that we don’t need and is not helpful,” Tuchel told reporters on Friday.
“On the other side, we don’t want to make more out of it than it actually is. It’s very easy to take lines out of context, to shorten lines to make headlines, then realize later it’s not so bad or what he meant.”
“But let’s be honest, we don’t like it because it’s noise we don’t need – we need a calm environment and focus, and it does not help.”
Revealing he was “very surprised” by Lukaku’s comments, Tuchel said that neither he nor the club were under the impression that the Belgian was unhappy and adding that he would speak to the player “behind closed doors.”
Lukaku has scored five goals in 13 Premier League appearances this season – including two in two since returning to the side after being sidelined for over a month with an ankle injury and Covid-19.
The 28-year-old Lukaku made his goalscoring return as a second-half substitute against Aston Villa on Boxing Day.
Lukaku then opened the scoring against Brighton on Wednesday, but an injury-time equalizer from Danny Welbeck saw Chelsea lose further ground on Manchester City in the title race.
Rocked by an ongoing injury crisis, the Blues now sit eight points off the top, and will fall to third should they lose to Liverpool on Sunday with a daunting trip to City to follow on January 15.
The Blues lost two further players to injury during the Brighton draw – Reece James and Andreas Christensen – with Lukaku’s comments surfacing during arguably Tuchel’s most difficult period at the club to date.
“We are a very disappointed team in the dressing room, angry,” Tuchel added.
“Myself also upset, angry about the situation and the results, the referee decisions – we have the feeling we invest a lot.
“We have the feeling that we squeeze the lemon and squeeze the lemon but it’s like squeezing the same lemon over and over again and we expect to always get fresh juice out of it and it’s hard.”