Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has admitted to being surprised by Romelu Lukaku’s comments about being unhappy at the club, while vowing to talk to the £98 million ($132 million) star “behind closed doors.”
Lukaku returned to Stamford Bridge from Inter in a big-money summer transfer after two successful years in Italy, committing to a five-year contract with the Blues.
However, the 28-year-old has not been an automatic starter under the German as he has dealt with a string of fitness issues, and he has risked the wrath of club officials by expressing his frustration in the Italian media.
What did Lukaku say?
Lukaku sat down with Sky Italia to discuss his situation at the start of December and admitted to being unhappy in west London.
The Belgium international also hinted at a possible return to Inter, saying: “Physically I’m fine, even better than before. After two years in Italy, in which I worked a lot at Inter with coaches and nutritionists.
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“I’m not happy with the situation and that’s only natural. The head coach has decided to play a different system but I need to keep working hard and be professional.
“I’m not happy with the situation but I’m a grafter and must not let up.”
How did Tuchel respond to Lukaku’s comments?
Lukaku’s remarks have come as a shock to Tuchel, who claims to have seen no signs of any dejection or anger from the forward in training.
Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s top-of-the-table clash with Liverpool on Sunday, the German head coach told reporters: “We will talk with Lukaku openly behind closed doors. I am surprised because I don’t see him unhappy — the opposite.
“We here can take the time to try to understand what is going on with Romelu, it does not reflect the daily attitude.”
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Tuchel says the publication of the interview is an unwanted distraction for his side, but he is reluctant to criticize Lukaku at this stage in case his words have been misinterpreted.
“We don’t like it, of course. It brings noise that we don’t need and it’s not helpful,” he added.
“We don’t want to make more out of it than it actually is. It is easy to take lines out of context, shorten lines, make headlines and then realize later that it is not so bad and maybe not what he meant.”
Tuchel denies Lukaku’s claim of system change
The central focus of Lukaku’s criticism was a shift in tactical approach by his manager, but speaking out in the wake of his player’s words, Tuchel rubbished the idea that he has overhauled his setup.
“What I read is that he said we changed a system,” Tuchel stated. “If you put a little bit of work in, in our systems, you will find not a lot of system changes, if you find any. So, end of discussion.”
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Tuchel further acknowledged that the length between Lukaku’s original interview and its publication has played a part in muddying the waters.
“This is exactly the problem we have out of it because you have a quote from another match in another direction and he says he had a chat with me, and then the suggestion comes and it seems the chat was about how he was not happy how we used him,” he added.
Tuchel expands upon dressing room discussions
Further pressed on his approach, the German continued to mull over the process of addressing concerns internally, adding: “But maybe that was not the chat and we have chats with a lot of players, how we want them to have in position, where they should be when we arrive in certain spaces.
“This is absolutely a super-normal chat and we have it with Romelu. We have a discussion now where it seems that he was on the bench and we benched him because other players suited our style of playing better.
“Romelu played when he came, then he got injured, then he caught COVID. It does not make it better, but that is my situation. He gave an interview so maybe he has a problem so he needs to speak up. I don’t have one.”