Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku is currently in the spotlight ahead of Sunday’s Carabao Cup final showdown with Liverpool. The Belgium international has struggled for consistency since his summer move from Inter Milan, with 10 goals a poor return for a player who cost in the region of £100million. And with the 28-year-old toiling, it’s time to look back at the Blues’ failed summer bid for Erling Haaland – who could have joined instead.
When Chelsea signed Lukaku in the summer, many expected the 28-year-old to take the Blues to the next level.
However, while 10 goals is a modest return, there’s a nagging feeling that he’s currently the odd one out over at Stamford Bridge.
Lukaku has gone off the boil in recent weeks, notching just three times from his last 10 outings across all competitions.
In their 1-0 win over Crystal Palace last week, the Belgium international put in a shambolic performance at Selhurst Park.
The striker managed just seven touches throughout the showdown and was then consequently left on the bench for Tuesday night’s 2-0 Champions League win over Lille.
Should Lukaku find himself among the substitutes for today’s match with Liverpool, it will lead to yet more uncertainty over his future.
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Chelsea, statistically at least, are better without their No 9.
Thomas Tuchel’s side score 2.5 goals a game without the ex-Inter Milan hitman, as opposed to only 1.5 goals a game with Lukaku in the team.
And it’s now easy to think Chelsea were wrong to settle for Lukaku when Borussia Dortmund’s Erling Haaland was originally their top summer target.
Roman Abramovich, who has since temporarily passed control of the club along to their foundation, was besotted with the idea of bringing Haaland to west London.
The Norway international struck over 40 goals for Dortmund last term, helping them finish second in the Bundesliga table.
And there was plenty of chatter that Chelsea were in pole position to land Haaland, with Tuchel another big admirer.
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Reach PLC’s Ian McGarry even claimed the Champions League holders had agreed personal terms with Haaland.
Speaking on The Transfer Window podcast, he said: “Personal terms for Haaland are signed off, it’s just a case of Chelsea agreeing a fee with Dortmund.”
In the end, however, Chelsea deemed a deal too expensive.
Dortmund wanted £135m for their prized asset and were always adamant he wasn’t for sale, even though he’ll likely leave for a cheaper £66m this year.
Chelsea then decided to go for Lukaku, believing the 28-year-old was a world-class alternative.
However, as they prepare to face Liverpool, they’re yet to truly get bang for their buck.
Lukaku, on his day, is certainly one of the best strikers in the whole of world football.
But Haaland’s form for Dortmund, even amid an injury-plagued campaign, suggests Chelsea were wrong to settle for Plan B.
Had they signed the 21-year-old, he’d likely be a guaranteed starter for this afternoon’s contest at Wembley.
And it’ll be fascinating to see what happens with Lukaku, who will be eager to start the match as he looks to regain his mojo.
Meanwhile, speaking after Chelsea beat Lille, Tuchel opened up on his decision to leave Lukaku out of his starting XI.
“This was not the moment after the match where everybody was focused on the few touches he had to put him right away into the next fire,” he said. “It was the moment to take a step back.
“That was the decision and you can clearly see we had a strong win but almost every question is about Romelu. The focus is huge.
“There are nine other players that didn’t play and we should never forget it is a team sport.
“I think he was tired, a little bit exhausted, lot of extra time, lot of travelling like some of the players.
“The focus was today on intensity, a high speed game and also hard work on the ball and off the ball.
“To have intense team work, and Romelu struggled in the last games to deliver that.
“That’s what I mean when I said tired. Not only physically tired but mentally tired.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism