Romelu Lukaku’s tempestuous spell at Chelsea seems a long time ago — but a Stamford Bridge homecoming could be on the cards.
The striker, 28, has gone on to score prolifically for Everton, Manchester United and now Inter Milan since leaving the Blues in 2014, helping the latter to a first Serie A title in more than a decade.
Such impressive and consistent goalscoring form has inevitably led to speculation over another big-money move, with Chelsea reportedly interested in his services.
As Thomas Tuchel’s men prepare to take on Leicester in the Premier League tonight, we consider whether re-signing Lukaku would be a wise move this summer.
Return to Chelsea?
A fee of £105million could be enough to lure Lukaku back to Stamford Bridge, where he spent three years between 2011 and 2014.
Most of that time was taken up with various loan spells but there is certainly a feeling of unfinished business from the perspective of both parties.
Chelsea’s apparent interest is hardly surprising given their struggles in front of goal this season — recruiting a first-class striker appears to be high on the club’s priorities ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.
Tuchel has transformed the Blues since his arrival in January but there is still room for improvement when it comes to the team’s finishing.
An average of 5.47 shots on target per 90 minutes in the Premier League puts Chelsea inside the four most productive teams in the division, not far behind champions and top scorers Manchester City (5.64).
Yet Chelsea have only scored 55 goals in 36 matches, compared to City’s total of 76.
Tuchel’s side are also one of the few top teams in the division that are underperforming when it comes to their expected goals (xG) tally, which currently stands at 58.8 for the season.
A logical solution
Bringing in a proven out-and-out goalscorer seems the logical move this summer, particularly if it would help unburden Timo Werner.
Lukaku, with service from the likes of Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech, would be expected to thrive.
And he would have the added motivation of proving himself at the only club where he has failed to make an impact.
The Belgium international is now in his prime and will command a huge fee — but his impact in the final third could make him worth every penny.
Chelsea must consider whether they are willing to pay for the premium service Lukaku provides.
There are no guarantees, of course, but he is as close as it gets to an assurance of 20 goals per season.
He has managed 29 in all competitions for Inter this season, as well as an impressive 11 assists.
Crucially from a Chelsea perspective, Lukaku has finished off 0.6 big chances per 90, compared to Werner’s 0.19.
That clinical edge is what the Champions League finalists have badly missed this term — and it is the area Tuchel will surely be most keen to address.
Stay or go?
Much will depend on whether Lukaku wants to leave Inter. The Italian club’s financial problems have been well documented but the No9 has clearly found a home in Milan.
After the Serie A title was confirmed earlier this month, he said: "I’m really proud to be an Inter player. I’ve a special feeling with this club."
The sentiment seems genuine. Lukaku is the main man at Inter, the focal point in attack and has clearly earned the admiration of manager Antonio Conte and the club’s supporters.
Moving back to Chelsea, from his perspective, would be a risk, given how things went last time.
But the opportunity to silence his few remaining doubters and achieve success at Stamford Bridge could be a tempting one — Lukaku may find a return home too alluring to resist.