Romelu Lukaku is the perfect plan B for Chelsea but could be more

BERGAMO, ITALY - NOVEMBER 08: Cristian Romero of Atalanta clashes with Romelu Lukaku of Internazionale during the Serie A match between Atalanta BC and FC Internazionale at Gewiss Stadium on November 08, 2020 in Bergamo, Italy. (Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images)
BERGAMO, ITALY - NOVEMBER 08: Cristian Romero of Atalanta clashes with Romelu Lukaku of Internazionale during the Serie A match between Atalanta BC and FC Internazionale at Gewiss Stadium on November 08, 2020 in Bergamo, Italy. (Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images) /

Chelsea’s latest pursuit of Erling Haaland was always going to prove difficult. Last time the Blues and rivals were interested, the young Norwegian chose Borussia Dortmund for their history of player development. Likely a smart choice, but not even two years later he seems set to move again with the world’s biggest, richest clubs all wanting his signature.

The competition last time for Haaland was stiff but now it is insane. Real Madrid, Manchester City, Manchester United, Juventus and more are all rumored to be interested. Chelsea doesn’t have the worst shot among the group but they hardly have the best either.

Which means Chelsea has to plan for alternatives, something the Blues have not been the best at in recent years. Enter Romelu Lukaku, who appears to be the perfect plan B to Erling Haaland. So much so that he might be an even better plan A for Chelsea.

First of all, let’s get all the misconceptions out of the way. Lukaku didn’t pick Manchester United over Chelsea. His agent, Mino Raiola (who just so happens to be Haaland’s agent now) was hardly upfront with Lukaku about Chelsea’s interest. Presented with only half the picture, Lukaku chose United. Once he saw the full picture, he promptly fired Raiola.

Second, don’t take his performances at Manchester United as his sale after just two seasons as a sign that he isn’t good enough. In his first season at the club, he had 27 goals and nine assists in 51 appearances. His second season was worse, with just 15 goals and four assists in 45 appearances which is still better than anyone at Chelsea this season. It should also be noted that was the season where Jose Mourinho was sacked and replaced by Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, so it is fair to say the entire team was suffering.

His time at Inter Milan, with a manager that wanted him at two separate clubs, is far more reflective of the type of player Lukaku is. Under Antonio Conte and within two seasons, Lukaku has a whopping 59 goals and 13 assists in 85 appearances. Mind, that is still dwarfed by Haaland’s current rate of production, so why would Lukaku potential be a better plan for Chelsea than the Norwegian?

The easiest answer might be availability. Chelsea can compete on even ground for Haaland for the most part, but there is simply no guarantee that they will be the team to win the race. The Blues’ board has had a bad habit of getting tunnel visioned on one target per position for a few years now. If that target goes elsewhere, they are left to scramble for alternatives as all the best have already been snapped up. Inter Milan (and Conte especially) will surely fight to keep Lukaku, but their finances are struggling and the player may be willing to force from his end to finally get his shot at Chelsea.

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That shot at Chelsea part is important because, Raiola aside, it appears as though Lukaku would have chosen Chelsea in 2017 had he known of the interest more clearly. With Lukaku, there has always been a hint of unfinished business in blue. He was a childhood fan that arrived and couldn’t find his way into the team. Very successful loans at West Brom and Everton surely would have seen him given a place these days, but those days saw Diego Costa come in. For the good of his career, Lukaku felt as if he had to leave. It was never that he wanted to and it still feels, even now, that he’d want to lead the line for Chelsea.

That Costa situation is also reflecting now with Haaland and Tammy Abraham. Haaland coming in would surely signal to Abraham, like Costa did to Lukaku, that his chance isn’t coming. Right or wrong, that would be a consequence of the transfer. But with Lukaku, there might be a way to convince Abraham to stay. Lukaku will know of the exact situation and could help on his end. Furthermore, even with a signing like Lukaku, there wouldn’t be as much of a drive to play him every single match no matter what as there would be with Haaland. That could give Abraham just enough reason to stay.

Finally, Lukaku’s already a known product in the Premier League and he’s approaching his prime. Chelsea has bought a lot of young players lately for the future, but they also need players that are just ready to go and rock the world. Haaland will be (continue to be?) a world beater, but Lukaku could be the missing piece of experience Chelsea needs to reach their old levels again.

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For now, Lukaku is plan B but there may be enough reason to make him plan A, part two alongside Haaland. If Haaland gives the Blues a hint they should still prioritize him, but if not Lukaku seems to be the closest the club can get to getting things right with the striker role this summer.