Thomas Tuchel says it is time to ‘move on’ after accepting Romelu Lukaku’s apology, following the Chelsea forward’s controversial interview comments.
Lukaku was omitted from the squad for Chelsea’s 2-2 draw with Liverpool on Sunday, after the release of interview comments to Italian media discussing his frustration in west London and suggesting he was unhappy following his £97.5m club-record arrival from Inter Milan last summer.
The Belgium international has since held clear-the-air talks with Tuchel regarding his future and the latter is now keen to ‘move on’ as Chelsea prepare for a Carabao Cup semi-final clash with Tottenham tomorrow evening, saying his comments are ‘as big as people want’.
“First of all, we are happy that we took the time to look calmy on it, this is what we did,” Tuchel said at his pre-match press conference.
“He apologised and is back in the squad for training today. The most important thing was to understand and believe it was not intentional.
“There was never the slightest behaviour against the team. These are very important points to understand that it is not that big as people or you want it to be. It is also not small but small enough to stay calm, to accept an apology and to move on.”
Lukaku’s comments also included a suggestion that Chelsea was not his first choice destination last summer, whilst praising former side Inter Milan and hailing the club’s fans as ‘the best in the world’.
Tuchel discussed a potential backlash from the Chelsea supports over the interview, admitting there ‘may still be a smell’ despite Lukaku reiterating his commitment to the club.
“He is aware of what happened and what he created and feels the responsibility to clean the mess up but there may still be a smell of course. We are happy that he is our player and we will protect him. If someone strongly disagrees, this is about the team with everything we do.
“He is very committed. That is why it was so surprising to me. He scored against Villa and then the next game but he was there and decisive. I never, before the interview, had the slightest doubt that he was not committed.
“He is an emotional guy, he does not hold back with his opinion. We should not just blame him and point on the negative side of it, we have to adapt. It created some noise that you don’t want but there are zero doubts in his commitment to the team.”
Lukaku voiced his concerns with his role in the Chelsea side, but Tuchel has placed the emphasis on the forward to find his form after scoring seven goals in 18 appearances so far this season.
“I think the players get the best out of themselves. With Romelu it is not about finding positions, he is a striker, a number nine and that is it. It is about adaption to a different team, teammates, then comes Covid. We are in a totally normal place with him.”
Tuchel also revealed his surprise at Lukaku’s interview, but insists that the 28-year-old is focused on scoring goals and bringing success to Chelsea this season.
“I have read more difficult quotes to cope with in previous years as a coach. He was not happy because he was injured and had Covid but he wants to score for us, make us successful and that is pretty much it. I don’t see any misunderstanding in communication. That is why I was surprised, and still am. He’s our number nine and I cannot say any more.”