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Rating the impact of the last five players to wear Chelsea’s ‘cursed’ number 9 shirt

Romelu Lukaku’s return to Chelsea has proven short-lived with the forward set to depart on loan for Inter Milan.

Lukaku re-signed for Chelsea in a £97.5m club record deal from the Italian side last summer, seven years after first leaving the west London in search of regular first-team football.


The Belgium international had been viewed as a forward who could help turn Chelsea from challengers into champions, but endured a disastrous debut campaign to muster just eight league goals.

Lukaku’s poor performances continued a trend of underperforming forwards at Stamford Bridge and we’ve decided to look back at the last five players to have worn Chelsea’s cursed number nine.

Radamel Falcao

Radamel Falcao’s disappointing loan spell at Manchester United was not enough to dissuade Chelsea from securing his services the following campaign, with the Colombian returning to the Premier League on a second successive loan from Monaco.

Falcao had been arguably Europe’s best out-and-out number nine during spells at Porto and Atletico Madrid, memorably scoring a hat-trick as the latter thrashed Chelsea 4-1 to win the 2012 UEFA Super Cup.

A serious knee injury had halted his progress however, and the forward looked a shadow of his former self during a forgettable loan spell at Stamford Bridge during the 2015/16 campaign.

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He scored his first goal in a defeat to Crystal Palace in August, though it proved to be the solitary strike of Falcao’s season-long loan as he made just 12 appearances in all competitions.

Chelsea unsurprisingly opted against the £38m option to make the deal permanent.

Rating: 1/10

Alvaro Morata

Chelsea spent big once again in their pursuit of a leading centre-forward during the 2017 summer transfer window, spending a club record £60m to sign Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid.

The forward had played his part in successes for both Real Madrid and Juventus, winning two Champions League trophies with the former and two league titles with each club.

The Spain international had largely failed to establish himself as an automatic starter however, with the move to Chelsea providing Morata with an opportunity to thrive as the club’s leading light.

He started brilliantly with seven goals across his first seven league appearances for the west Londoners, but a bright start faded fast as his confidence dropped over the second half of the season.

Having scored 10 league goals before the turn of the New Year, he managed just one more across the remainder of the season and was left out of Chelsea’s starting line-up for the FA Cup final win over Manchester United.

Morata struggled to regain his place as an automatic starter and was allowed to leave on an initial loan to Atletico Madrid mid-way through his second season.

Rating: 4/10

Gonzalo Higuain

Signed on loan from Juventus as a replacement for the outgoing Morata, the move to Chelsea reunited Higuain with former Napoli manager Maurizio Sarri.

Higuain had scored a record-breaking 36 league goals during his final season under Sarri in Naples, before scoring 48 times in 105 league appearances across a three season spell with Juventus.

The Argentina international scored five goals in 14 appearances during his spell with Chelsea, though the Blues opted against extending his deal with Higuain looking off the pace for much of his time in the Premier League.

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He returned to Juventus and again reunited with Sarri in Turin, though his contract was cancelled by mutual consent just a year later. He signed for MLS franchise Inter Miami on a free transfer after leaving Italy.

Rating: 2/10

Tammy Abraham

Frank Lampard’s appointment as Chelsea manager saw the long overdue promotion of several academy graduates into the side.

Tammy Abraham was handed his chance following a prolific loan spell at Aston Villa, in which the forward scored 26 goals to help Villa to promotion to the Premier League.

Lampard’s faith was evidenced by Abraham’s designation of the number nine shirt, with the youngster rewarding his manager’s trust with an impressive first season in the senior side.

Abraham scored 18 goals in all competitions to finish as Chelsea’s leading scorer in 2019/20, though the arrivals of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz the following summer increased competition for places at Stamford Bridge.

He remained a regular member of the side until the arrival of Thomas Tuchel as Lampard’s successor, featuring only sporadically under the German over the second half of the 2020/21 season.

Abraham featured for just 140 minutes in the Premier League under Tuchel and was left out of Chelsea’s squad for the Champions League final win over Manchester City.

Despite his lack of involvement he finished as the Blues’ joint-leading scorer in all competitions, before signing for Roma with a record of 30 goals in 82 appearances.

He has shone since moving to Italian football, setting a new record for the most prolific debut season from a Roma player with 27 goals in all competitions.

Rating: 6/10

Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku returned to Chelsea last summer with huge expectations, having developed into one of Europe’s most prolific forwards since leaving Stamford Bridge as a teenager.

The Belgium international had scored 64 goals in 95 appearances across two seasons with Inter Milan, producing the best football of his career strong spells at both Everton and Manchester United.

He was named as Serie A’s Most Valuable Player after firing the Nerazzurri to title success in 2020/21, performances which persuaded Chelsea to spend a club record £97.5m on his services.

What had looked like an ideal match has instead proven an awkward fit, with Lukaku faltering following a bright start to score just eight league goals for the campaign.

His struggle for form and favour came alongside a controversial interview in which he criticised Chelsea and spoke of his desire to one day return to Inter, a wish which has been granted as he nears the completion of a loan move to the San Siro.

It is a move all parties are keen on, following one of the most disappointing major Premier League signings in recent memory.

Rating: 4/10

Read – Iconic Performances: Prime R9 dismantles Valencia with a hat-trick for the ages

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