Romelu Lukaku has apologised to Thomas Tuchel for a controversial interview released last week and feels a responsibility to “clean the mess up”, according to the Chelsea head coach.
Lukaku was left out of Chelsea’s 20-man squad for Sunday’s crucial Premier League clash with Liverpool due to comments made in the Italian press.
In the wide-ranging 30-minute discussion, Lukaku said he “is not very happy with the situation” he finds himself in at Chelsea and expressed his desire to one day return to Inter.
The interview, which was conducted three weeks ago but only aired on Thursday and Friday, dominated the pre-match talk ahead of the Blues’ 2-2 draw with Liverpool.
Tuchel later stood by his decision to omit the Belgium international, who had scored in Chelsea’s previous two games, stating that the issue “got too big and too noisy”.
Speculation in the subsequent days has suggested Lukaku, who rejoined the Blues for a club-record fee in August, could be on his way out of Stamford Bridge this year.
But after holding clear-the-air talks with Lukaku on Monday, and with the 28-year-old returning to training on Tuesday, Tuchel is hoping to draw a line under the matter.
“We were happy we took the time to look calmly on it. He apologised and is back in the squad for today’s training,” Tuchel said at a news conference on Tuesday.
“For me, the most important thing was to understand. He did not do this intentionally to create this kind of noise in front of a big game.
“There are zero doubts about his commitment to the team and the club. Romelu is very aware of what happened and what he created.
“I never, before the interview, had the slightest doubt that he was not committed. He is an emotional guy, he does not hold back with his opinion.
“We should not just blame him and point on the negative side of it. It created some noise that you don’t want but there are zero doubts in his commitment to the team.”
Lukaku has scored seven goals in 18 appearances since returning to Chelsea in a campaign blighted by an ankle injury and a positive test for coronavirus.
While Tuchel has accepted Lukaku’s apology, it remains to be seen whether he will be welcomed back by Chelsea fans after he admitted his preferred choice was to stay at Inter.
Asked about what reception Lukaku can expect, Tuchel said: “He is aware of what happened and he created and feels the responsibility to clean the mess up.
“But there may still be a smell of course. We are happy that he is our player and we will protect him. If someone strongly disagrees, this is about the team with everything we do.
“Of course he should have known better but that is why we have cleared the air together.”
Lukaku is now in contention to return to Chelsea’s line-up for Wednesday’s EFL Cup semi-final first leg against Tottenham, who are managed by his ex-Inter boss Antonio Conte.
The Belgian scored 47 goals in 72 league appearances with Conte at Inter – his best such tally under any manager – for a return of 0.72 goals per 90 minutes.
That compares to 0.54 goals per 90 minutes for Chelsea across his 13 games since returning, with the striker having also yet to assist a goal.
Tuchel does not believe it is down to him to get more out of Lukaku, however, but more to do with the former Manchester United man readapting to the Premier League.
“I think the players get the best out of themselves,” he said. “With Romelu it is not about finding positions. He is a striker, a number nine and that is it.
“It is about adaption to a different team, team-mates, then comes COVID. We are in a totally normal place with him.”
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