The battle of the centre-forwards takes centre stage in London this weekend and in the build-up Thomas Tuchel has detailed his understanding of both their similarities and differences, as well as revealing the extent of Chelsea’s interest in Tottenham’s main man this summer…
While Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane will not be in direct combat with one another in N17 on Sunday afternoon as they line up at separate ends of the field, the narrative of a strike-off between the two has been building ahead of the capital clash.
The Belgian has bolstered the European champions in attack, netting four goals in as many appearances since his return to Stamford Bridge.
Kane, meanwhile, is still waiting for his first Premier League goal of the season following a protracted summer saga surrounding his future amid intense reported interest from Manchester City, though nobody doubts the England captain’s ability to find the back of the net.
Before the comparison, a clarification from Tuchel on how closely the Blues considered a speculative transfer offer to Spurs for their talismanic forward.
‘We never had a list with his name on it and I never went to Marina [Granovskaia] to tell her to buy him,’ stated the Chelsea head coach.
‘There are many people around players, their agents and advisors and people in between, so we had some information from these people but it was never that close.’
Tuchel had long set his sights on Inter Milan’s Lukaku and the feeling was mutual, with the 28-year-old completing his return to the Premier League after two successful seasons in Serie A.
He is, according to Tuchel, a nine in far more than just squad number, with a presence and personality that is having a significant impact. All four of his goals in blue so far have come from inside the 18-yard box, a stark contrast from Kane’s more marauding approach play.
‘The two are very different,’ explained Tuchel. ‘Romelu plays a bit higher up the pitch and is a bit more physical, while Harry Kane is someone who loves to drop into number 10 positions and pockets of space, to turn and assist.
‘He is fantastic in conversion and there are some players around him who deliver well and can also be decisive like Son Heung-min, who he has a superb partnership with. We need to focus on how to defend, where to close him down, maybe close the deliveries down, because once he has the ball he is one of the most dangerous guys in the world at finishing attacks.
‘We never had a list with his name on it and I never went to Marina to tell her to buy him.'
— Tuchel on Kane
‘They have very different styles of playing but there is one big similarity and that is they both score decisive goals. They love scoring, they score whenever they play and they are up for that, which is a certain mindset that you cannot learn.
‘I’m pretty sure they both had this since they started playing football at five or six years old. These guys are born to score goals and if they don’t score then they are not fully happy.’
It is not just Lukaku’s influence in games that has pleased Tuchel but the general impression he has made in the dressing room and on the training pitches at Cobham.
‘It’s one of the effects from these players that they have on their teams,’ he continued. ‘They affect the dressing room, the atmosphere and the young players around them because they’re role models in how they behave and train.
‘How he approaches and deals with pressure, how he pushes himself to the limit, how he talks to the guys in the dressing room all brings a huge effect and hopefully takes the pressure off the shoulders of the younger guys. That’s also why we are so happy to have him here.’
The right person, as much as the right player, was a key consideration for Tuchel when assessing recruitment options this summer as he sought to maintain the impressive bond that was so influential in the team securing Champions League glory last term.
‘The very special thing about the first half-year we had was the strong bond and great atmosphere,’ he added. ‘We played like any amateur team out there, like a group of friends fighting through hard matches.
‘That’s why we were very careful who to bring into the squad but Romelu is a big part of that now. He’s a humble guy and he loves what he’s doing so it’s an excellent fit.’