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Highlights on Off The Ball


Chelsea must sell Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku's interview with Sky in Italy was a nuclear moment for a striker who hasn't performed anywhere close to well enough to justify it.

Chelsea must sell Romelu Lukaku after his startling interview with Sky Italy.

Thomas Tuchel made a strong statement today. He left Romelu Lukaku out of his squad completely for the visit of Liverpool.

Lukaku spoke at length of his love for Inter Milan. He outlined why he never wanted to leave Italy. And he listed three top clubs in the world, Chelsea were not included. The content of the interview is startling. But the depth at which Lukaku speaks is matched by the bluntness in how he delivers his words.

Normally an unhappy player hints at these things but never says them openly. When Danny Rose privately argued his case with Jose Mourinho over playing time, he was largely lambasted for it.

What Lukaku has done is the polar opposite of that and far worse. He has publicly undermined his manager, his club and openly disrespected the Chelsea fanbase. Before he spoke of his love for Inter and played down the calibre of Chelsea as a club, he first criticized his manager.

"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," Lukaku said.

Tuchel's response reveals that Lukaku never spoke privately with him.

"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," Tuchel said.

This is definitively a sunk-cost fallacy situation.

If Lukaku had not cost Chelsea £100 million so recently, he would already be on his way out the door. Furthermore, Chelsea don't actually need him as much as they thought they did. Lukaku has scored five goals in 13 games this season so far. Jorginho and Mason Mount both scored more than him.

The disruption his comments bring and the negative attention it brings to the club are regardless. If Lukaku was on pace to score 30 goals this year, there would be some reason to keep him. It's not like he has a rounded game to offset his lack of goals. Lukaku is famously just a goalscorer.

Chelsea aren't going to catch Manchester City this season regardless. Selling Lukaku won't drop them out of Champions League places. It won't cost them a title. The only thing it will cost them is money.

Lukaku will still command a fee of £50+ million. Getting his wages off the books and removing him from the dressing room will offset the immediate financial loss. The better long-term move is to move on. Swapping Lukaku could even make sense.

Tuchel is a good manager who appears to be a strong man manager. Maybe he can work to handle this situation and create harmony, but the interview was at such an extreme that's hard to envision. The best managers can manage big personalities, but not toxic personalities.

Jurgen Klopp has managed Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane when they've been unhappy in the past. Those are manageable incidents, this is not.

Pep Guardiola at Manchester City would not keep a player who openly longs for other clubs and explains away his decision to sign with them.

This is a theme that exists across sports. The best coaches don't enable talented individuals, they prioritize the team atmosphere. Bill Belichick famously traded Randy Moss at the peak of his powers when he acted similarly. Lukaku isn't at the peak of his powers, he's not one of the best players in the world and Chelsea can win without him.

Outside of being stubborn, there's no argument for keeping him.

One January transfer for each Premier League team


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Chelsea Premier League Romelu Lukaku Thomas Tuchel