LONDON -- Romelu Lukaku is moving closer to a Stamford Bridge return with Chelsea expected to make a formal bid imminently that will secure the services of their former striker from Inter Milan.
Chelsea have already seen an opening bid of $119 million and Marcos Alonso rejected, but Inter are expected to be ready to do business for between $130 million and $155 million. Lukaku is reported to be open to a move back to west London, where he was on the books between 2011 and 2014 albeit spending most of his time out on loan.
Speaking after his side's 2-2 friendly draw with Tottenham, Thomas Tuchel said: "I will not talk about players who don't play in my squad. Romelu is a fantastic player but a player for Inter."
Last season's Serie A MVP is considered to be the crown jewel at Inter Milan and the Italian champions would only sanction his departure for a sizeable sum. Even that is only down to the significant financial constraints they are operating in which have already forced them to sell Achraf Hakimi to Paris Saint-Germain.
Lukaku's signing gives Blues manager Tuchel the consistent scorer that he craved last season even as his side won the Champions League. Speaking exclusively to CBS Sports before that match, the Chelsea head coach acknowledged his frustration over his side's conversion of chances in the latter stages of the campaign.
"We create touches in the box in crucial areas, we create chances with it, we have expected goals," he said. "We lack the conversion. Making the players know about it and keeping them confident still is not so easy because the strikers are dependent on their success and they need to feel it."
Lukaku will certainly offer them a finisher. In 95 games for Inter, who he joined from Manchester United in 2019, the 28-year-old scored 64 goals.
How will Chelsea change around Lukaku?
The hunt for a central striker has been the defining tale of Chelsea's summer transfer window and no wonder. One might argue it is the only position in the side where strengthening is a necessity, particularly if Jules Kounde arrives from Sevilla to add youth and pace to the backline.
Certainly, the days of Kai Havertz as a regular false nine look to be numbered, though it is highly unlikely that the match winner from the Champions League final will lose his place in the side entirely if and when Lukaku arrives. The explosive roar from the Stamford Bridge faithful that greeted his name ahead of the preseason friendly with Tottenham suggests that Chelsea supporters would be far from impressed if the young German lost his place.
Mason Mount is also likely to have his name written in pen on the team sheet early in the season, which rather suggests that Tuchel's front three is set in stone. The likes of Timo Werner, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech may find themselves operating somewhere between horses for courses and impact substitutes. As for Tammy Abraham, Lukaku's arrival will surely hasten his journey to the exit door.
Perhaps the one question unanswered in regards to Lukaku's return to Stamford Bridge is whether Tuchel may be tempted to change tactics and switch to the back four he had used at both Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain, particularly if Kounde also joins. It might afford more opportunities to the substitutes from the outset and a two-man midfield comprised of N'Golo Kante and one of Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic would surely be strong enough to shield Chelsea's defense. Still, when this team's become so consummate in their application of their current system, it seems just as plausible that the Chelsea head coach will simply slot his new signing into this smartly functioning machine.