Lukaku to Inter: Chelsea's cursed number nine strikers - what happened next?

Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku looks set to return on loan to Inter Milan, just one season after leaving to rejoin Chelsea for a club record £97.5 million.

After rebuilding himself and helping Inter to the Serie A title in 2020/21 following a forgetful spell at Manchester United, Lukaku jumped at the chance to return to Chelsea, intent on succeeding with the club who gave up on him.

In what felt like a story destined for a storybook ending with the world class Belgian set to dominate with Chelsea and complete the redemption arc, the transfer quickly turned into a complete nightmare.

Despite scoring on his second debut with the club, Lukaku found goals incredibly difficult to come by and looked like a square peg in a round hole whenever he played. He managed just three goals from his first 11 Premier League games of the season and fell out of favour with Thomas Tuchel as his form plateaued.

Then came the interview.

With his return season already looking rather bleak, Lukaku spoke to Sky Italia in December 2021 and essentially confessed his undying love to Inter and expressed his desire to return to the club in the future.

While he would attempt to clear up his quotes and apologised, the damage was done, and Lukaku was left red-faced with no goals to back him up.

Lukaku appeals for an officiating decision
LONDON, ENGLAND – JANUARY 23: Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on January 23, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

It appears as though he is going to get his wish, however, with Fabrizio Romano now reporting that an agreement has been reached between Chelsea and Inter for the loan return of the Belgian striker. The loan will bring to an end what was a complete shambles of a return to London, and could again spell the end of Lukaku’s time at Chelsea.

But, he isn’t the first number nine to struggle with the demands of leading the line for the Blues. Far from it. Chelsea’s number nine shirt curse has been running deep for years and has seemingly affected a handful of strikers, who were about as good as you could imagine before taking the gig in London.

So, we at GIVEMESPORT thought it would be fun to look into that curse and see exactly what happened next for Chelsea’s most famous flops in attack. Who knows, maybe there is a way back in for Lukaku when he fancies yet another romantic return.

Chelsea close in on Sterling (Football Terrace)

Chris Sutton – 1999 to 2000

Sutton survived just one season at Stamford Bridge following a spell with Blackburn where he fired them to the Premier League title, and it was a dismal one at that.

Signing for £10m, Sutton struggled to live up to the hype and netted just once in 28 Premier League games before being sold to Celtic after a season. He rediscovered his scoring knack in a six-year stint in Scotland, but that was the last of his chance at the top.

Sutton is unveiled as a Chelsea player
5 Jul 1999: Chris Sutton the former Blackburn Rovers player signs for Chelsea Football Club for the fee of 10 million pounds during a photo-shoot held in Chelsea, England. \ Mandatory Credit: Craig Prentis /Allsport

Khalid Boulahrouz – 2006 to 2008

Perhaps Boulahrouz is the reason this entire curse really took off. Sorry, Khalid.

Upon signing for Mourinho’s Chelsea in 2006, Boulahrouz – a defender – took the number nine shirt vacated by Hernan Crespo, who also struggled wearing the shirt. Boulahrouz started brightly but quickly fell out of favour, and was sold in 2008, having vacated the nine shirt after one season.

Boulahrouz returned to the Bundesliga with Vfb Stuttgart but underwhelmed for the most part. He would also turn out for Sporting CP, Brondby and Feyenoord before retiring in 2015.

Steve Sidwell – 2007 to 2008

So, who took the nine shirt off Boulahrouz? Surely a big name star, right? No. Wrong. It was Sidwell, who again wasn’t a striker.

The midfielder signed on a free transfer in 2007 and played a bit-part role, failing to break into the midfield regularly with such a star-studded queue in front of him. Upon his 2008 departure, he found his feet with Aston Villa over a four-year spell, before fading away with Fulham, Stoke and Brighton in his later years.

Sidwell challenges for a loose ball
LONDON – FEBRUARY 16: Steve Sidwell of Chelsea challenges Chris Brandon of Huddersfield during the e.on sponsored FA Cup 5th Round match between Chelsea and Huddersfield Town at Stamford Bridge on February 16, 2008 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Fernando Torres – 2011 to 2015

When Chelsea parted with a whopping £50m to snatch Fernando Torres away from Liverpool in January 2011, it looked like they were finally serious about fixing their striker department.

However, Torres went from looking like a world class striker to a man with the weight of the world on his shoulders overnight, going 903 minutes without a goal and pulling together a highlight reel of misses.

That slow start ultimately killed his career. And while Chelsea fans will never forget his semi-final goal that essentially won them the Champions League in 2012, he flopped. A two-year loan to AC Milan was disastrous and cut short as Torres returned to Atletico Madrid, before retiring in Japan with Sagan Tosu. Never looked the same ever again. Lukaku must return to Inter with caution.

Radamel Falcao – 2015 to 2016

Having scored just four goals while on loan at United in 2014/15, Chelsea were convinced Falcao would come good if they loaned him from Monaco for the 2015/16 season. He didn’t.

Falcao again looked like a fish out of water in England, scoring one goal in the 12 appearances he made. A once world class finisher now looked useless thanks to the Chelsea curse. He returned to Monaco after, and has since played his best football in the Turkish Super Lig with Galatasaray, before heading to La Liga with Rayo Vallecano.

Falcao looks to the ground while playing for Chelsea
LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 03: Radamel Falcao Garcia of Chelsea reacts during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Southampton at Stamford Bridge on October 3, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

Alvaro Morata – 2016 to 2020

Morata arrived at Chelsea in the summer 2016 for another club-record fee, an initial £60m, despite being linked with United all summer long, and played like a man who had no idea who Chelsea were, despite changing out of the number nine shirt after one season.

He notched a more respectable 15 goals from 48 games, but was sent to Atletico Madrid on loan in 2019. The Spaniard started well there, but was shipped off for a second spell with Juventus in 2020, which has again fallen completely flat and left him looking like anything but the top striker he was before life at Chelsea. His stock is now in the floor; a reality that was kickstarted by his struggles at Chelsea.

Gonzalo Higuain – 2019

After spending millions and millions on strikers in an attempt to break the curse, Chelsea went for a more sensible loan approach to fill the void in January 2019. Higuain on a short loan sounds like a good idea, but it was far from it.

Surplus to requirements at Juventus, the Argentine headed to London and actually finished up with five goals from 18 games played under former coach Maurizio Sarri. Chelsea passed on the chance to sign him permanently, though, and Higuain has since wound up playing under Phil Neville at MLS outfit Inter Miami. A humbling ending to an otherwise fantastic career. Lukaku needs to avoid a similar fate.

Higuain smiles while playing for Chelsea
LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 18: Gonzalo Higuain of Chelsea looks on during the FA Cup Fifth Round match between Chelsea and Manchester United at Stamford Bridge on February 18, 2019 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

QUIZ – Name these obscure January Chelsea transfers

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Franco Di Santo - Chelsea

Do you know this obscure player Chelsea signed in the January transfer window?

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