Who could replace Lukaku at Chelsea?
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Chelsea could fill the void Romelu Lukaku looks set to leave behind this summer with one of the players he returned to Stamford Bridge to seemingly replace just 10 months ago. Inter Milan have opened formal talks with Chelsea over re-signing Lukaku on loan after the Blues paid a club-record £97.5million for him last summer.
Reports claim Inter held a meeting with new owner Todd Boehly on Monday, with Lukaku’s representatives also present. And there is a shared eagerness across all parties to reach an agreement on the loan fee and complete the loan deal as quickly as possible.
Chelsea’s willingness to offload Lukaku after just one season back in west London suggests Boehly and head coach Thomas Tuchel have a plan to replace him. Part of that plan could be signing Ousmane Dembele as a free agent when his Barcelona contract expires on July 1, but Tuchel could have a fitting solution to the 29-year-old’s early exit.
Timo Werner scored the joint-most goals and recorded the most assists (both 12) across 52 appearances in his debut season at Chelsea. Only Mason Mount (54) played more times under Frank Lampard and Tuchel as the Blues finished fourth and lifted their second Champions League title.
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However, Lukaku’s summer arrival was the catalyst for Werner’s reduced role last term, making just 24 starts in all competitions. His inconsistent minutes contributed to a drop-off in goal involvements, registering 11 goals and six assists.
But in the Nations League on Tuesday, he showcased against Italy that he’s more than capable of reclaiming a regular starting berth, netting two poacher goals as Hans-Dieter Flick’s central striker. And if handed the confidence during pre-season, he will be confident in his ability to lead the Chelsea line just as effectively.
Werner has featured mainly as the left-forward in a front three at Chelsea, especially under Tuchel after Lukaku returned. But Dembele’s potential arrival would limit spots on the wing and help the 26-year-old reclaim his place as the Blues’ striker.
Even with Lukaku’s expected exit, Dembele would join a competitive attacking regiment at Chelsea, featuring Werner, Kai Havertz, Mason Mount, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech. And Werner has ended a challenging season with a flourish ahead of entering the battle for places in a few weeks.
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