Romelu Lukaku alienated Chelsea fans from the moment that he gave his infamous Sky Italia interview in December.
After a strong start to his Stamford Bridge return that quickly petered out, Lukaku caught so much heat for what was perceived to be public flirtation with Inter Milan that an apology video was eventually released.
“I always said that I love Inter and I’ll play for them again,” the 29-year-old reflected during the interview in question, per Sky Sports’ translation. “I really hope so. I fell in love with Italy.”
Lukaku’s Chelsea nightmare
The Belgium striker added: “I hope from the bottom of my heart to go back to Inter and not at the end of my career but when I’m still at a good enough level to win more trophies.”
And while Lukaku might have hoped that the situation would calm down on the back of his apology, you really did get the impression that great swathes of the Stamford Bridge faithful simply didn’t forgive him.
Lukaku eventually ended the season as Chelsea‘s top scorer in all competitions with 15 goals, but was nevertheless reduced to the status of a rotation player with Thomas Tuchel largely favouring Kai Havertz.
All in all, it led to the remarkable scenario that we find ourselves in now with Lukaku – despite having been signed for a club record fee – loaned back from whence he came less than 12 months on.
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Lukaku’s return to Inter Milan
Now, look, at the end of the day, life is short and a career in football doesn’t last forever, so power to Lukaku for pursuing what feels right to him and there’s no denying that things weren’t looking positive at Chelsea.
Marry that to the fact that Lukaku has picked up unfair amounts of criticism throughout his career in general – his first touch isn’t that bad, folks – and it’s clear that he does need to be cut some slack here.
All that being said, you can extend at least a little bit of sympathy to the Chelsea fans who feel betrayed by Lukaku laying it on quite so thick with his love for Inter when he still technically plays for the Blues.
While, yes, Lukaku is hardly going to rock up at the San Siro and play things corporately with a club that clearly means a lot to him personally, it’s easy to see why his latest round of comments have irked more than a few supporters back in England.
Lukaku calls leaving Inter a ‘mistake’
That’s because the former Manchester United striker has publicly admitted for the first time that leaving Inter, and therefore signing for Chelsea, was a ‘mistake’ at a presentation for the club’s 2022/23 jerseys.
According to Football Italia, Lukaku said as part of a comment that ended up with him giggling along with Nicolò Barella: “The biggest challenge of my career will be this season here. I left. It was a mistake, right Nico?”
Lukaku continued: “Now I am happy to be wearing this jersey, the team knows what we need to do, it’ll be a great challenge this season and we need to continue like this.
“I realised last season when I was in England, just how important Inter are in the world. The club’s profile is improving on an international scale, the social media approach is really important too and you can see how we act in the locker room, in training, our hugs and jokes.
“Milan is a wonderful city and that is why I kept the old apartment when I went to London, because my mother was coming here all the time and I wanted to return too.”
How have fans reacted?
Look, kudos to Lukaku for being true to himself and expressing his love for what is, once we strip back all the nonsense of football, ultimately an employer that made a huge difference in his life.
However, you can probably already picture some of the comments from Chelsea fans when you read about Inter’s importance dawning on him while he was in England and calling his £97.5-million move a ‘mistake’ when he’s still technically on the books at Stamford Bridge.
As such, it should come as no surprise that the comments have been met with a level of backlash across social media with some of the less mean replies, shall we say, featuring down below.
What now for Lukaku and Chelsea?
But does Lukaku have a future at Chelsea? All the love for Inter would suggest the contrary, though you can never rule things out when the Premier League giants get so much use of their loan policy.
“Given the fact he’s just on loan, of course there’s a chance,” Tuchel told Sky Sports in a recent press conference. “I don’t know if it’s very likely, but it’s not on me to give an outlook on that. There is a chance for it.”
Truth be told, though, it doesn’t half seem like the best move for everybody involved that Lukaku makes his transfer to Inter a permanent one. All the best, Romelu.