Antonio Conte says Chelsea will be the team to beat in the Champions League again if Thomas Tuchel can work out how to use striker Romelu Lukaku effectively.
Lukaku arrived back at Stamford Bridge in the summer from Inter Milan for £98m. Already the 28-year-old has scored four goals in eight games, but Conte believes there is more to come from the Belgium star.
Conte, 52, signed Lukaku from Manchester United in 2019 and spent two productive seasons shaping the forward in Serie A.
The pair were beaten in the Europa League final in their first season together. However, they managed to secure the Serie A title last term. And it was the first time in 10 years Inter had claimed the Scudetto, with Lukaku scoring 24 goals in the process.
“I think he can still do better, above all with his technique,” Conte told Sky Sport Italia.
“He is already at a very high level, but a player must keep improving until the day he retires.
“During the game, there are moments when Lukaku needs to be turned on. But other than that he is one of the toughest forwards to play against, because he can do damage in any area of the pitch.
“If you have a centre-forward like that, you need to use him and I don’t think Chelsea have quite figured out how to use him yet.
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“Last season, they didn’t have a proper centre-forward, so they rotated positions, whereas Romelu is a real reference point in attack.
“If they can figure out how to use Lukaku, then Chelsea can become the team to beat in the Champions League this season.”
Conte believes Lukaku left Italy a much improved player and thinks Tuchel needs to improve him further.
Conte: We did great work with Lukaku
“A coach is good if he can improve players. I think we did great work with Romelu over two years,” Conte added.
“He is a very specific striker. Bringing Lukaku into the box, he is dangerous. However, when he starts from midfield, he is incredibly quick. It is very difficult to find a player who is both a target man, but can also run from midfield.
‘These are also characteristics I can see in Erling Haaland. I had been tracking Lukaku for a very long time and wanted him when I was at Chelsea, even when he was at West Brom.
“It’s a tactical situation too. A centre-forward who goes looking for the opposition defender, backs into him and lays it off for whoever is supporting him. That is a tactical approach used in basketball as well.
“The good thing about Romelu is that he can hurt you anywhere. If you keep him far away from the penalty area, he can kill you with his pace. If you have him in the box, he has the physicality to be a target man.”