Chelsea must learn from Erling Haaland’s mistake with Thomas Tuchel free from Roman Abramovich request
Let’s set the scene. It’s June 2021, and those associated with Chelsea are basking in the glow of the club’s second Champions League triumph. Few expected such a feat – but Thomas Tuchel and his players have delivered time and time again. Now the focus is on what comes next.
It was the morning after Chelsea beat Man City at Porto to lift the big-eared trophy that Tuchel sat down with Roman Abramovich. He underlined his desire to build a team capable of fighting for the Premier League title and outlined key areas that needed to be strengthened in the summer transfer window. At the top of the list was the centre-forward.
It wasn’t a big surprise. After Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard mid-season, he quickly discovered the Chelsea squad‘s biggest flaw: prodigality. Far too often chances have been squandered and what should have been routine victories have turned into hard fought victories. This had to change.
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There were three names at the top of the attacking list: Harry Kane, Romelu Lukaku and Erling Haaland. Still, the reality was that a move for Kane was somewhat of a non-runner, given that Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy had no intention of selling the England international. And even less at Chelsea.
Lukaku, meanwhile, had stated publicly that he would stay at Inter Milan – we’ll get to that shortly. But what about Haaland? Chelsea explored a deal for the Norwegian but it became clear the finances of a transfer would be astronomical. Borussia Dortmund were unwilling to sell and were prepared to wait for the buyout clause in their contract to become active this summer.
At this point, with the climax advantage, Chelsea should have stepped back and assessed hard. Yes, the need to progress under Tuchel was great, and the demands placed on coaches in the Abramovich era meant that simply standing still was often seen as a setback. But such pressure can lead to costly mistakes, as the club have discovered.
Chelsea, with Tuchel’s blessing, were able to lure Lukaku away from Inter Milan. It cost them a club record £97million to do so, and the Belgian striker was catapulted to the top of the club’s payroll. Yet he was seen as the missing piece of the puzzle. Everything was worth it.
Until it didn’t, of course, Lukaku’s supposed dream return to Stamford Bridge started well, started to fizzle out due to injury and then imploded when the striker conducted an unauthorized interview with Sky Italia in which he proclaimed his desire to play for Inter again in the future.
The majority of Chelsea fans have never forgiven Lukaku, and his form hasn’t helped to help matters. By the end of the 2021/22 campaign, he had fallen behind Kai Havertz in the pecking order to be the club’s number nine and had a less than ideal relationship with Tuchel.
Lukaku is now an albatross for Chelsea, a player the club will find almost impossible to move on without the indignity of suffering a huge financial loss. Her signing just didn’t work out – and she knocked Chelsea out of the race, however short, to sign Haaland this summer.
City didn’t have a free run against the 21-year-old but they positioned themselves expertly. Pep Guardiola’s side also needed a striker 12 months ago but they kept the powder dry and decided to go through the 2021/22 campaign with what they had, which was enough to win the Premier League again.
And when the opportunity arose to secure a deal for Haaland ahead of this summer’s transfer window, City had the need, the money and an open position in their squad to complete a move quickly. As painful as it may be, it’s a lesson Chelsea need to learn from under Todd Boehly.
Sometimes the smartest decision a club can make is to wait. It can cause frustration among supporters, lead to questions from pundits and come across as a sign of stifled ambition, but if there is a clear long-term plan in place then Chelsea avoid a repeat of the problem. of Lukaku who landed.
Take, for example, the right-back position. Reece James is there, but Chelsea are reportedly still interested in Achraf Hakimi, now from Paris Saint-Germain. For the money that would be needed to sign the 23-year-old, one would expect him to be a guaranteed starter. The potential ripple effect would be twofold.
Not only would this impact James – who admittedly could be deployed at right centre-back – but it would almost certainly put Chelsea out of the running to re-sign Tino Livramento when his buyout clause from Southampton becomes active at the moment. summer 2023.
The Blues, despite their best efforts, have already lost Livramento once. Doing it again, given the potential he displayed in his first Premier League season at Southampton, would be a mistake, especially as a number of top sides were already showing interest before the start. knee ligament injury he suffered towards the end of the campaign.
And it’s not like Chelsea don’t already have cover for James. Cesar Azpilicueta is, for now, still on the club’s books, while Dujon Sterling enjoyed a solid campaign on loan at Blackpool and impressed Tuchel in pre-season last summer. He could certainly play the role of deputy if necessary.
There will be a rebuild at Chelsea this summer and major signings will be made. However, this must also be accompanied by a better transfer market, a smarter way to operate. And sometimes that means playing the long game in order to reap the greatest reward.