Tottenham manager Antonio Conte still believes Romelu Lukaku can be a success in the Premier League, but suggests his old player needs to feel more loved at Chelsea.
Conte takes his Spurs side to Stamford Bridge on Sunday but there will be no head-to-head battle between two of the world’s best forwards in Harry Kane and Lukaku.
Kane will lead the line for the visitors but Thomas Tuchel could again go with a false nine, with the Blues dogged by issues in front of goal for a lengthy period of time.
The signing of Lukaku for £97million last summer was expected to solve Chelsea’s attacking problems. However, the Belgian struggled and is back with Inter Milan on loan.
It was at San Siro under Conte’s management where Lukaku showed himself to be among world’s elite. Indeed, he played a major role in them, lifting their first Serie A title in 10 years.
And Conte still thinks the 29-year-old can be a force in England: “I think Romelu lived two years in Milan and he was the king. The fans showed him a lot of passion and I think he’s a guy who needs this.
“For this reason I think he wanted to come back in Milan. But for sure the signing was a good signing for Chelsea. Then you know very well there are players that need more time to make an impact.
Lukaku still has plenty to offer
“We are talking about a player who came back to Chelsea and now he is on loan at Inter for this season. But he has the potential to play in the Premier League.
“I remember very well when he started to play last season. He played really well and you in the media said Lukaku is really strong.
“A lot of things can happen and drop the confidence. I know for sure he is a bit disappointed with his impact because he wanted to have another impact in England.
“But he has time. Now it’s right for him to play for an important club in Italy, to try to get again confidence in himself. But we are talking about a really important and really good striker.”
While Spurs have regularly seen Harry Kane, and now even Son Heung-min, hit the 20-goal mark in the Premier League, the last Chelsea player to do so was Diego Costa five years ago.
It occurred in Conte’s maiden campaign in England where he guided the Blues to the title.
Conte has happy Chelsea memories
An FA Cup would follow in his second and final season at Stamford Bridge before he left in acrimonious circumstances but the 53-year-old only holds fond memories of his time under Roman Abramovich.
“I spent two important years in Chelsea that I enjoyed a lot,” Conte added.
“We won the Premier League and then the FA Cup. We also lost the final in the FA Cup. It was my first experience in England and everything was new for me but I enjoy a lot that time. Yeah, I bring with me a good feeling.
“I have seen the Abramovich era has finished but this person brought the team to become one of the best clubs in the world.
“I was pleased to be part of the history of Chelsea and the Abramovich era. And at the same time to give him two trophies.”