Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has labelled Romelu Lukaku “fantastic” and said he can imagine “a lot of players want to come and join” the Stamford Bridge club amid reports the Belgian has requested Inter Milan agree a deal if an acceptable bid is tabled.
The Blues have had two bids rejected this summer by Inter for their former striker but are believed to be ready to table a third offer that exceeds £100million.
And the saga took a fresh twist on Wednesday night with it claimed that the 28-year-old, who scored 24 Serie A goals last term for Italian champions Inter, wants the move.
Sky Sports reported Lukaku has told Inter he would like them to accept an offer for him provided it is a suitable fee.
That’s after a second bid of £85m plus Marcos Alonso was turned down by the Milan giants, with it thought a fee of between £92m and £102m could tempt the Italians to do business.
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And Tuchel remained coy when asked about the former Everton and Manchester United frontman, who spent three years at Chelsea between 2011 and 2014, following a 2-2 pre-season draw with Tottenham.
Yet he still teased the possibility of the striker becoming the Blues’ first big-name signing of the summer, calling him “fantastic” and claiming many players would want to link up with the European champions.
“I won’t talk about players who are not in my squad. Romelu Lukaku is a fantastic player but a player from inter and with all due respect I will not talk about him,” the German coach said after his side drew 2-2 with London rivals Spurs at Stamford Bridge.
When pressed on Lukaku, the Chelsea manager continued: “I will not talk about him in this situation. Not everybody [wants to] but I can imagine a lot of players want to come and join but we don’t comment on that.”
Quizzed as to whether the Londoners are lacking a world-class frontman up top after also showing interest in Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland, Tuchel acknowledged that a “direct” striker is needed as he seeks to build on last term’s Champions League success.
“With the exit of Olivier Giroud, we could use a player who plays with their back to goal whose strength is to keep possession from long balls so we can add this direct style of play to our portfolio,” he admitted.
“This is the characteristic of player that is not Tammy Abraham, Timo Werner or Kai Havertz, so this is a profile we don’t have in the squad.
“It could be useful but not for any cost and not hectic or in panic as no matter what happens we will be competitive and have trust in our guys and that we can still develop.
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“We have young players in the offensive part of the game that we demand improve.
Chelsea have yet to make any significant additions to their squad this summer with Marcus Bettinelli coming in but only to serve as a third-choice goalkeeper.
The former Fulham shot-stopper replaces Willy Caballero, with the club’s activity largely having revolved around outgoings.
They have however showed keen interest in both Haaland and Lukaku but it appears if they are to sign a new striker this summer it will be the latter leading the line in the coming campaign.
Lukaku has scored 64 goals in 95 games for Inter in Italy, having delivered 42 in 96 with United.
Before that, in four seasons at Everton, the player scored 87 times in 166 games having made 15 appearances at Chelsea without finding the back of the net.