Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has been heavily criticised for the way he’s handled the Romelu Lukaku situation.
Pundit Garth Crooks has made it clear he blames Tuchel for getting too self-important in this saga, saying it was the wrong decision to leave the Belgium international out of his squad for the game against Liverpool on Sunday.
Lukaku is a world class player on his day and has made a decent start to life at Chelsea since his move from Inter Milan in the summer, though he is known for being a bit outspoken, and it’s certainly caused tension at Stamford Bridge.
Still, Crooks seems to be backing the player over the manager here, saying that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich needs to have a word with Tuchel about how the German tactician is dealing with an expensive signing.
Writing in his BBC Sport column, Crooks said: “For the second consecutive week, I find myself having a pop at Chelsea’s manager Thomas Tuchel, which is slightly disappointing, as I am an admirer.
“However, the German manager insisted that Romelu Lukaku’s comment, that he was “not happy” with his bit-part role at Chelsea and a return to Inter Milan in the future was not out of the question, was considered too disruptive by Tuchel and so he left the club’s record signing out of the game against Liverpool.
“Has Tuchel got carried away with his own self-importance? Lukaku, like all top players, is desperate to play, and the bigger the match, the better. So Tuchel leaves him out of their most important game of the season over a throwaway comment? Why not use the situation to your benefit and allow the player to prove how much playing in Chelsea’s starting line-up actually means to him?
“What impact this latest decision by Tuchel will have on their already fragile relationship is anyone’s guess. What is clear is that Chelsea missed Lukaku against the Merseysiders in a game the Blues desperately needed to win to keep up the pressure on Manchester City. Tuchel now has a much bigger problem to solve and that is how he patches up the rift with Lukaku, or risk losing the club’s record signing permanently.
“If Tuchel thinks he holds all the cards in this delicate situation he is very much mistaken. The modern game exists in an era when top players have agents who are prepared to ask for a transfer on behalf of their client if they lose their car park space at the training ground, never mind their place in the team.
“This is a time for cool heads and a little wisdom at Stamford Bridge. I suggest if Roman Abramovich is intent on winning a domestic trophy this season, or getting anywhere near to retaining the Champions League title, he needs to have a quiet word with his manager and remind him that his £97.5m investment needs to be loved and protected, not chastised like an errant schoolboy. Chelsea’s future success in a number of areas depends on it.”
We’re not sure Chelsea fans will be entirely in agreement here, with Lukaku clearly undermining his manager’s authority and unsettling the squad at an important stage of the season.
Perhaps Tuchel hasn’t handled it perfectly either, but Crooks seems to be very much suggesting that players can make whatever comments they like without really facing any consequences, which doesn’t seem realistic.