Having met with Romelu Lukaku yesterday, following the striker’s omission from the squad for the Liverpool game, Thomas Tuchel today issued an update on how the meeting went.
Lukaku was not included at the weekend due to the large amount of noise created by an interview he gave to Italian media, which in turn was causing a distraction from the squad’s preparation for an important Premier League fixture.
Speaking at his media conference on Tuesday afternoon ahead of our Carabao Cup semi-final versus Tottenham, Tuchel had this to say on the matter.
‘We are happy we took the time that it needed to look on it and to talk calmly about it. This is what we did.
‘Romelu apologised and is back in the squad for today's training which is later. For me, the most important thing was to clearly understand and believe that it was not intentional.
‘He did not do this intentionally to create this kind of noise in front of a big game.
‘Secondly, it was the very first time. Before, when he seemed in his opinion to be ready to play from the start after his injury, and we thought he needed to readapt to the intensity a little bit more, there was never the slightest behaviour against the team.
‘So it was the very first time that we actually felt in this way. And these are very important points to stay calm, understanding that it's not as big as maybe people want it to be. It's also not small, but it's small enough to stay calm, to accept an apology and to move forward.’
Tuchel was asked what kind of reception he thinks Lukaku will now receive from the Chelsea fans.
‘He is very aware of what happened and what he created and he feels the responsibility to clean the mess up,’ began our head coach’s response.
‘Maybe we will have a bit of smell still from it. He can handle it. There's also no other choice, you cannot expect now everybody to be to be super happy the very next day, but he is still our player and we have a lot of good reasons to make him play for us and to convince him to fight hard.
‘He is our player, we are happy that he's our player, and we will protect him and in the end, it's also very important that the stadium supports the team.
‘Even if somebody has a different opinion on it or strongly disagrees, it is about the team in anything we do and I hope the supporters can take this also and keep on supporting the team because at the moment we need the support.’
Tuchel went onto to explain that although it does not make it better or easier to understand recent events, in Lukaku he sees a committed player in every way.
‘That is why it was so surprising to me because he was on his way and he scored for us in Aston Villa and in the next game against Brighton,’ he added.
‘He was there and he was decisive and we had the feeling there's really a new start to it after injury and after Covid and that's why it was a big surprise.
‘Before the interview I've never had the slightest doubt that he is committed because his actions on the pitch and off the pitch and in private life all go in the same direction.
‘He's an emotional guy. He does not hold back with his opinion, so also credit to that and sometimes he carries his heart on his tongue. We should not just blame him and just point to the negative side of it. We have to adapt now to the situation and it created some noise that you normally absolutely don't want, and this is clearly understood, but there are zero doubts about his commitment to the team and to the club.’
‘Was the intention to create trouble? Was the intention to leave the club? Was the intention to put pressure on the coach? Absolutely, no, I cannot see it.
‘He did not want to do this intentionally. Of course he should have known better and that's why we have to clear the air now together, but as we answer all these questions with a clear no, we need to be mature enough to accept an apology and have a clear head to prepare the upcoming matches which are difficult enough.
‘He has a long-term contract for a reason and he wants to achieve big things with his club Chelsea which means a lot to him, and from here we go. I cannot predict the future but there was no intention behind all this to change his club or change his ambition.’