The Romelu Lukaku saga seems to have come to an end with the Belgian apologizing to the club and the fans. It can be seen as another episode of a power struggle between a star player and the manager.
For those of you who haven't been following Chelsea, Romelu Lukaku has controversially claimed that he was unhappy at Chelsea in an interview with Sky Italia. He fired shots at the manager Thomas Tuchel for changing the system at Chelsea which isn't playing to his strengths. He also claimed that he would return to Inter Milan in the future just four months after his £98m move.
It was a brutally honest interview from the Belgian, which has become quite a rare occurrence in these times of media managers and press training where you would be effectively coached for what you say in an interview.
Lukaku is quite an outspoken person and has a history of flirting with transfers away while being contracted to a club. In 2017, he questioned Everton's ambitions and said that staying at Merseyside was not really an option for him. While at Manchester United he publicly said that he would like to play in Italy just a year after his move from Everton. After joining Inter Milan, he slammed Manchester United for making him the scapegoat for the club's poor performances.
So it doesn't come as a surprise to see him make controversial statements on his current club, especially to the United and Everton supporters. But what was he referring to when he said there was a change in the system?
At Inter Milan, Lukaku played in a strike partnership with Lautaro Martinez playing off him. Antonio Conte preferred a 3-5-2 formation which brought the best out of the Belgian where he scored 64 goals in the two seasons in Italy. At Chelsea, Tuchel uses a 3-4-3 setup with Lukaku up top.
Lukaku thrives in space where he can use his pace which is quite high for his stature. With two up front, he used to cut in from the right flank and drive at defenders.
But at Chelsea, he is more isolated and needs to hold the ball more and bring the others into play. He is not comfortable with his back to the goal even though he looks perfect for that role. His lack of a good first touch has been well documented when he was at United.
So is this what Lukaku was referring to when he said there was a change in the system? Or was Lukaku promised that he would be partnered with someone like Timo Werner who can do the job that Martinez did at Inter?
The timing of the interview couldn't have come at a worse time for Chelsea. Their form has dropped off dramatically in the Premier League. The Blues were top of the league when Lukaku got injured in November but since then they have surrendered the top spot to Manchester City who are now 10 points ahead.
The interview was released days before a crucial game against Liverpool and Tuchel had to drop Lukaku for one of the most important games of the season. Looking back now, the game was perfectly set up for him in the 2nd half at 2-2 and he could have been the difference between the two sides.
Tuchel did the right thing by dropping him from the squad against Liverpool. Any other manager would have been under serious pressure but the Champions League that Tuchel won will keep him in good stead. He is one of the elite managers in world football and replacing Lukaku would be easier than Tuchel.
Graeme Souness and Gary Neville had differing views on Lukaku's actions. Souness claimed that Lukaku needs to apologize to his teammates while Gary Neville said that if he believes he told the truth there is no need for an apology.
Souness said speaking to Sky Sports "It was totally disrespectful. He's 29 years old not 19 and he should know better. This damages the football club enormously. It's like walking into a dressing room and telling the other guys, 'I don't want to be with you anymore. It damages the manager, and he should say, 'If you don't fancy it here, there's the door. On you go'. The first thing I'd do if I was Thomas Tuchel is I'd tell Lukaku that he needs to apologise. He needs to stand in front of everyone in the dressing room and apologise unreservedly.
Gary Neville speaking before the Liverpool game said "What I'm looking for now from Lukaku isn't a sorry. I don't think he can say sorry, if he's told the truth as brutally as he has all he can do is make this relationship transactional and say, 'I said what I said, I stand behind what I said, in hindsight I should have kept it to myself but I guarantee you I'll give you my all for the next 3-4 years of my contract because there's been a large investment into me'.
So who were the real winners and losers out of all this mess?
The winners are quite simply no one while the losers have been ultimately the football club and the fans as always.