When Diego Costa was exiled from Stamford Bridge in 2017, Chelsea began their search for a new number nine.
Antonio Conte’s decision to offload the Blues’ top scorer for three seasons running was as bizarre then as it is now, pushing the striker out the back door with no remorse. Since then, strikers have come and gone from west London.
Álvaro Morata started well but saw his form deteriorate with his confidence. Gonzalo Higuaín was a failed short-term fix who never really hit his full stride. Tammy Abraham seemed to break the curse when he finished as the Blues’ top scorer for consecutive seasons, but now looks destined to be on the way out amid an uncertain future.
Four years on, Chelsea still haven’t found an adequate replacement – until now.
Romelu Lukaku, former Blue and one of the world’s best strikers, is returning to Stamford Bridge to complete unfinished business. Seven years on from his Fulham Road farewell, Lukaku is back.
Set to be announced in the next few days ahead of the new season, the Belgian is joining from Inter for a club record fee of £97.5 million, smashing the record set just last year by Kai Havertz.
Chelsea are showing they mean business once again after their record spending spree last summer, this time with their most expensive signing ever.
For Chelsea and Lukaku, it is a match made in heaven.
Chelsea were in dire need of a prolific striker, something incessantly evident in the years following Costa. The lack of a goalscorer has held the Blues back from greater glory – in this case the Premier League title, which hasn’t been in west London since 2017 and Costa’s departure.
Last season was sufficient proof that a number nine was the ultimate priority for Chelsea. Abraham and Timo Werner’s 12 goals apiece was the lowest top scorer tally at the club since 1993, while Thomas Tuchel’s reign has seen a comparatively low 38 goals in 30 games. Chelsea need goals, and how.
For Lukaku, it is a chance for redemption at the club where he swore he would one day play.
His first stint in 2011 certainly didn’t turn out how he would have envisioned. Three years, two loan spells and no goals in 15 appearances, a Blues career ultimately defined by his decisive missed penalty in the 2013 Super Cup defeat.
Buying back players is controversial business in football, with Chelsea set to re-sign Lukaku for three times more than what they sold him for. But football is intertwined with fate, and in this case, returning to Chelsea is Lukaku’s destiny.
Chelsea are bringing a boyhood blue home, and a world-class striker in that.
Romelu Lukaku vs Chelsea predecessors
|Goals||Games||Goals per game|
|Romelu Lukaku, 2020/21||30||44||0.68|
Lukaku comes off the back of another stunning season, scoring 30 goals as he helped Inter to their first Scudetto in 11 years. At 28 years-old, Chelsea have him in his prime and with his maximum goalscoring powers, with unfinished business both at the Bridge and in the Premier League.
Lukaku brings back what Chelsea had in Costa. Perhaps not the same temper, but reminiscent power, aggression and most importantly, goals.
Costa was a blood-thirsty striker who scored for fun, propelling the Blues to two league titles in his three years at the club. No-one enjoyed playing against him, notorious for his antics but celebrated for his goalscoring ability.
It has taken four years, but Chelsea have finally found the heir to his throne.
Now that Chelsea have their number nine, the sky is the limit for Thomas Tuchel and his Blues. The Champions of Europe could add another piece of European silverware to the cabinet when they contest the Super Cup on Wednesday, before opening their Premier League campaign days later.
Chelsea should be challenging for the title, albeit in what looks likely to be the most competitive title race in years.
Defending champions Manchester City have grown from strength to strength, Manchester United come off the back of a marvellous transfer window, while Liverpool will finally have a full-strength squad at their disposal. Chelsea face competition, but they can compete now that they’ve got their striker.
When Costa left Stamford Bridge, no-one realised it would be years before he was replaced. However, in Romelu Lukaku, the wait was worth it.
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