Thomas Tuchel has clarified that he never demanded the exit of Romelu Lukaku from Chelsea – but believes his replacement Raheem Sterling will be “horrible” for opponents.
Chelsea’s attack is evolving after the return of Lukaku to Inter Milan. The Belgian striker’s second spell at Stamford Bridge only lasted one season. Indeed, his club-record return from Inter did not exactly go to plan.
Chelsea reacted by signing winger Sterling from Manchester City. It will represent a change of their style, but after how Lukaku struggled, it may fit them better anyway.
Now, as pre-season preparations continue, Tuchel has opened up on how his attack has changed ahead of the new campaign.
Explaining Lukaku’s exit, he told the Daily Mail: “There was never a meeting where I said, ‘I want this guy out’. Never.
“I was always clear – if he stays we will do everything to put him in a better place, to put him in better shape, to improve my style of coaching, our style of playing, to make him a better fit.
“Romelu made it very clear he wanted to leave and the owners took the decision to make the decision straight away.”
However, Tuchel denied any disappointment with how the situation panned out. Acknowledging it may have just taken time, he said his blessing was with the parties who decided to end the experiment with Lukaku early.
He added: “Disappointed is the wrong word. I don’t know a better word in English. It feels like I take it personally – it’s never personal. I am not happy that we couldn’t bring more out of him.
“Maybe it would have just taken a bit more time. A bit more fitness, a bit more adaptation in our game. Who knows?
“But we will not find out. Once Romelu gave his clear opinion on the situation and there was a solution on the table, the owners made their choice and had my blessing.”
Lukaku will be expecting a stronger season back with Inter, where he previously hit the 30-goal barrier in two consecutive campaigns.
‘Oustanding’ Sterling a suitable successor
Chelsea have signed a reputable goal getter in their own right, though, with wide man Sterling. According to Tuchel, the ex-City star will bring intensity to their game.
Tuchel said: “I gave his name to Todd [Boehly] straight away. He’s horrible to play against, horrible.
“The main point is his intensity and the amount of repetition of intensity that he delivers. This is simply outstanding over the last years.
“He caused huge trouble when he played against us and once you dig in deeper into his data and not only statistics in his goal involvements, it’s outstanding. It’s exactly what we need to raise the level of our players. That’s why we are so sure and that’s why he was, for us, top of the list.”
Tuchel finding summer tasks ‘intense’
Tuchel is taking on a more active role in Chelsea’s transfer dealings this summer. Marina Granovskaia and Petr Cech are following ex-owner Roman Abramovich out of the club.
In turn, new owner Boehly is collaborating with his head coach on the summer window. For Tuchel, it is a necessary step, even if it would not normally be his preference.
Asked to summarise the new era, he said: “Intense. It has changed a lot. I could never have imagined that I stayed longer at the club than Roman, Marina and Petr.
“It (transfers) is not my favourite thing to do and in the long run the focus has to be on coaching because it is why I am here. But at the moment, of course my help is needed and wanted, and it is, of course, necessary that I step up and take the responsibility.
“I am in contact with Todd directly on a daily basis and sometimes more than once on a daily basis because we are aware that we have a club in transition and change. My concern is for the team to be competitive and for this we have to invest a lot of time and we need to be hands on. There is no other way.”
Chelsea have pre-season fixtures against America, Charlotte, Arsenal and Udinese before their Premier League campaign kicks off against Everton on August 6th.