Chelsea have spent £600m and, as it stands, their best goalscoring option next season is Romelu Lukaku. The ‘unfinished business’ is theirs…
‘Unfinished business’ was the parroted phrase on Romelu Lukaku’s return to Chelsea in 2021. The words never came out of his mouth as far as we know, but it was a tidy summation of what everyone was desperate to believe was his state of mind after leaving Chelsea in 2014, having barely made a mark, while departing the Premier League entirely in 2019 on a wave of unappreciation.
Two years on, he’s set to return to Chelsea once again, and like some sort of speech tic, Ian Wright couldn’t wait to roll out the two words now seemingly synonymous with the Belgium international.
“He’s got unfinished business here, he’s got massive unfinished business here. If I was him, I would love to know I’m going back there and I can shut a few people up. He’s got to do that. He owes it to himself to try.”
Lukaku quite clearly doesn’t feel that way. He has no choice but to return with Inter not keen to keep him and other clubs not about to spend what would have to be big money – in wages at least – on an injury-ravaged striker who’s lost his edge.
There’s hope that Mauricio Pochettino, who’s thought to be a big admirer of Lukaku, can revive the striker’s career at Chelsea. It’s possible, but unlikely, with Lukaku’s fitness and his Chelsea PTSD two of the significant hurdles Pochettino will need to guide him over.
There was presumably nothing Lukaku would have loved more than scoring 30 goals a season for Chelsea for the rest of his career when he joined for £97.5m – he described it as a “chance of a lifetime”. But that ship has sailed, mainly because he’s incapable if his form at Inter is anything to go by, but also because given the option – after his relationship with the club and the fans soured under Thomas Tuchel’s watch – he would probably rather be banging goals in almost anywhere else. He would prefer the business went unfinished.
The hope was that he would go to Inter, play well and either sign for them permanently or be picked up by someone else. Chelsea would only get half what they paid for him, it’s terrible business, but hey-ho. Todd Boehly would be fixing the previous regime’s mistake, not his own. It would be a win, of sorts.
Or, Lukaku wouldn’t play well, Inter wouldn’t want to keep him and Chelsea would have to drop the price significantly. Definitely not a win, but it wouldn’t matter because of course the absolute priority after Lukaku left would be to sign a guaranteed goalscorer – something Chelsea have been crying out for since Diego Costa scored 20 Premier League goals in their title win in 2016/17.
There is absolutely no way that anyone – not Lukaku, not the club, not the fans – thought there was any chance at all that he would ever play for Chelsea again. And yet, as it stands, Lukaku is Chelsea’s best hope of scoring goals next season. It’s the club’s ‘unfinished business’, not Lukaku’s, that’s led to this bonkers situation.
Chelsea replaced a £97.5m striker with two new strikers – one incredibly raw, the other incredibly idle – for a combined £20m or so. They’ve spent £600m and no f**ker can score a goal.
And it’s that ludicrous outlay, ridiculously spent, that means Chelsea are open to the return of a striker who may claim he was treated poorly at Stamford Bridge, but did nothing to ingratiate himself. In fact, quite the opposite.
Lukaku openly criticised the club’s Champions League-winning manager four months after his return, in an interview in which the striker outlined his love for Inter Milan and desire to go back, while essentially downing tools on the field as he refused to adapt in the belief that the team should function to the beat of his drum. He was at best a passenger and at worst a parasite.
Chelsea will probably try to sign another striker, but who and for how much? Victor Osimhen for £130m? Surely not. It should have been the very first thing they did as it became clear, long before the transfer window opened last summer, that Lukaku would not longer be around, before they spunked over half a billion quid on centre-backs and wingers.
A 20+ goal season for Lukaku would be one of the great redemption stories in Premier League history, but the fact it’s even a possibility is mind-blowing, given how terrible he was and has been, how little respect he showed for Chelsea Football Club and how much he clearly despises everything and everyone associated with it.
‘Unfinished business’ for Chelsea leads to Lukaku, not the other way around.