Exclusive – Chelsea have identified Inter striker Romelu Lukaku as their top centre-forward target this summer, with Thomas Tuchel and Roman Abramovich both keen to bring the Belgian back to Stamford Bridge seven years after he was sold to Everton.
Despite spending heavily on attacking players like Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Hakim Ziyech last summer, Chelsea have long been determined to bring in a new striker ahead of next season.
For a long while, Erling Haaland had been of major interest to the Blues as a result of his incredible record so far in his fledgling career, combined with enormous long-term potential. But the 20-year-old Norwegian looks less and less likely to leave Borussia Dortmund this year after the club secured Champions League qualification and the lucrative financial gains that come with it.
Haaland will be available for a fixed price of €75m (£64.5m) next summer, but there will be a big scramble for his signature from top clubs all over Europe, while Chelsea need a striker now and there could be a better opportunity to land Lukaku instead.
90min understands that Lukaku is one of Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich’s favourite players and the Russian is ready to sanction an approach to prise him away from Inter. Manager Thomas Tuchel also supports Abramovich’s desire to make Lukaku a Chelsea player for the second time and is in agreement that a move for the 28-year-old should be a priority.
Despite Inter winning the Serie A title this season for the first time in 11 years, the club’s Chinese owners, Suning, are looking to pull out of football, leaving the club in need of cash.
Coach Antonio Conte has already left San Siro as he was not on board with the plans to raise funds through player sales, and now a number of names could be heading for the exit door. For Lukaku in particular, the loss of Conte is a huge blow. He was in no rush to leave but the situation at the club has now changed.
Although he has a general interest in testing himself in the Bundesliga at some point in his career, he is open to the possibility of returning to Chelsea and believes he has unfinished business at the club after failing to make an impact last time. He is seriously considering it.
Lukaku is set to be available for less than £100m, which instantly makes him more affordable than Haaland this year, and that figure will fall into Chelsea’s summer budget. Olivier Giroud’s expiring contract will free up room on the wage bill, while the Blues have also told Tammy Abraham that he can leave and will hope to raise money from selling both him and Callum Hudson-Odoi.
Premier League champions Manchester City also hold an interest in Lukaku, despite his past association with Manchester United, although they also have eyes for his Inter teammate Lautaro Martinez, as well as the aforementioned Haaland and unsettled Tottenham talisman Harry Kane.