Former Manchester United midfielder Luke Chadwick believes Romelu Lukaku can be a success at Chelsea as long as they build their team around him.
The Belgium international had a difficult two-year spell with Man Utd before moving to Inter Milan, where his career has really taken off again ahead of what now looks an imminent transfer back to the Premier League with Chelsea.
Chelsea have been strongly linked with Lukaku by The Athletic and others, and Blues fans will be excited to be signing such an in-form attacking player as a much-needed upgrade on the struggling Timo Werner.
Still, there may also be some cause for concern as Lukaku really didn’t do the business for United in his time at Old Trafford, and Chadwick has given some insight into where it went wrong for him.
Speaking exclusively to CaughtOffside, the former United ace felt that Lukaku didn’t really get the trust he needed in his two years in Manchester, but that he’s flourished by having a team built around him at Inter, which is how Chelsea should also approach the player.
“I don’t think Lukaku felt trusted or felt like the main man at Manchester United,” Chadwick said. “I think he was made to feel that at Inter Milan, the team was built around him.
“The sort of money Chelsea are spending on him, they will probably build a team around him and his strengths. I think that’s what Lukaku needs, he needs to feel trusted and I think that’s what Chelsea are going to do.
“It probably helps that he’s been with the club before, so he knows the club and that should mean he doesn’t need much of a settling-in period. He can hit the ground running and I’m sure he’ll be keen to show Chelsea what they missed out on the first time around.”
Lukaku’s arrival could really complete this Chelsea squad, with Thomas Tuchel undoubtedly in need of a player capable of scoring 25-30 goals a season if he wants his side to be in the title race.
Despite winning the Champions League last season, Chelsea weren’t ever really in with a shout of winning the title, with Werner scoring only six league goals, and Jorginho their top scorer in the league on just seven.
Still, Chadwick is not sure if the addition of Lukaku necessarily bumps the Blues up to being clear title favourites, as he expects a close battle between the west London giants, reigning champions City, and last season’s runners-up Man Utd.
“I don’t think it makes Chelsea title favourites. It obviously strengthens their squad – what they were missing last season was a real goal-scoring centre-forward,” Chadwick said. “Tammy Abraham was a young player who wasn’t really trusted much, Timo Werner came in for big money but didn’t score the goals you expected.
“Lukaku is now coming in after perhaps the best spell of his career, he really looks like one of the best centre-forwards in the world at the moment. Chelsea looked at Haaland earlier in the summer and that obviously wasn’t to be, but Lukaku is right up there.
“I think City are still favourites through, with Grealish coming in. Manchester United have strengthened well and I’d say those three are slightly ahead of Liverpool at the moment, with Klopp not strengthening much.
“It certainly bodes well for an exciting Premier League season with the quality of these teams, and with fans back in the stadiums as well. I think it could be one of the most exciting title races for a long time.
“I’d make City favourites but the signings by Chelsea and United surely mean they’re going to get a bit closer, and you can never rule out Liverpool either with Klopp in charge and the way he gets his team playing.”
It will no doubt be painful for United fans if Lukaku ends up being a hit at the club just two years after struggling so badly with the Red Devils, and another player who’s gone on a similar journey since leaving Old Trafford is Memphis Depay.
The Dutchman joined MUFC as a youngster with huge potential, but he also failed to really settle at the club, though he’s since improved a great deal.
Depay shone at Lyon and earned a move to Barcelona this summer, with Chadwick expressing regret that the style of play for him just wasn’t right during his time at United.
“I think Depay caused a huge excitement at United when he came. He arrived as a young, quick, skilful winger, which obviously the club has been known for having in the past,” Chadwick said.
“I think the problem for Depay was the playing style. He was a real free spirit, not really known for his defensive work out of possession. It just didn’t fit for him at that moment in time.
“It was a shame because he’s obviously a hugely talented player who’s gone on to do well. He’s shown he’s a fantastic player. Barcelona are not really what they once were, but it could be a great platform for him there, especially now that Messi’s gone. Those are big boots to fill but he’s shown his worth with the Dutch national team and what he’s done in France with Lyon.
“He can now go and play his football, it’s just disappointing it didn’t work out for him at Manchester United. He’s obviously got to take some responsibility for that, but I don’t think the playing styles of Louis van Gaal or Jose Mourinho helped that.”