The Romelu ripple effect: Lukaku’s return to Inter Milan could FINALLY spark Chelsea’s transfer window into life, with plenty of movement both in and out… Sterling, Dembele and Kounde have all been linked, so what will happen next at Stamford Bridge?
- Romelu Lukaku looks set to leave Chelsea and head back to Inter Milan on loan
- Sportsmail understands Inter are nearing an £8.5million loan deal for Lukaku
- His departure could finally get the ball rolling for Chelsea in the summer window
- They are being linked with a host of potential recruits ahead of the new season
- Raheem Sterling, Ousmane Dembele and Jules Kounde are on the club’s radar
- But Thomas Tuchel may also see other players head for the exit this summer
Romelu Lukaku is set to rejoin Inter Milan following a disastrous season back at Chelsea, whose summer transfer window could now finally spark into life.
Sportsmail understands Inter are close to reaching an agreement with the Blues over a loan move for Lukaku, who only returned to Stamford Bridge for £97.5million last summer, after increasing their offer from £6.5million to £8.5million with add-ons.
Thomas Tuchel and Co have decided offloading the Belgian striker is in the best interest of all parties, and once completed they will turn their attention to finding a replacement.
Romelu Lukaku is on the verge of leaving Chelsea and re-signing for Inter Milan on loan
Thomas Tuchel can finally begin his Blues revamp once the Belgian striker heads back to Inter
Though it’s not only upfront where Tuchel needs to strengthen, meaning Chelsea are also being linked with reinforcements in other areas of the pitch. And they could yet see others follow Lukaku out of the door…
Nevertheless, his departure will likely get the west London club’s summer revamp up and running – so which players could be heading in and out of SW6 over the next few months?
Here, Sportsmail takes a look…
The Manchester City winger has emerged as Chelsea’s biggest transfer target this summer, with Tuchel a huge admirer and therefore keen to add him to his squad.
While he started 23 times in City’s title-winning campaign, Sterling was demoted to the bench by Pep Guardiola for a number of key fixtures last season – including their Champions League semi-final ties against Real Madrid – and is therefore weighing up his future at the Etihad.
Chelsea believe he would be valued at around £55million by the Premier League champions, who only have the 27-year-old under contract for another year.
Tuchel needs to strengthen in attack more than anywhere else given the likes of Christian Pulisic, Timo Werner and Hakim Ziyech have proved too inconsistent in recent seasons, and in Sterling he would be recruiting an experienced Premier League goalscorer who has reached double figures for five seasons running at City.
The latter are yet to be contacted by Chelsea, but they would not stand in Sterling’s way if he sets his sights on a move to Stamford Bridge.
Likelihood of arrival: 4/5
Raheem Sterling has emerged as one of Chelsea’s biggest transfer targets this summer
If Tuchel wants to bring in a direct replacement for Lukaku, there are not many better options out there than wantaway Bayern Munich striker Lewandowski.
The Poland international has made it clear he wants to leave Bayern this summer after eight years with the club, and Chelsea are interested in prising him away from Germany.
After scoring 50 goals in 46 matches last season he is by no means past the peak of his powers, though at the age of 33 Lewandowski would undoubtedly represent a short-term signing for Tuchel.
His desire to sign for Barcelona may provide an obstacle, however it remains to be seen whether the Spanish club can actually afford him amid their financial woes.
Paris Saint-Germain are also believed to be circling, which makes a potential move for Lewandowski even more difficult. Chelsea would have to table a hefty financial package to beat them in the race for his signature.
Likelihood of arrival: 2/5
Robert Lewandowski could be the best direct replacement for Lukaku available this summer
But the wantaway Bayern Munich striker’s preference is said to be a move to Barcelona
The majority of Chelsea’s success so far under Tuchel has come with a false-nine system in place, yet Kai Havertz is the only player to have truly flourished in that role.
An ideal recruit to slot into that setup next season is Nkunku, who enjoyed a spectacular breakthrough season at RB Leipzig in 2021-22 and is now attracting serious interest.
The 24-year-old is on Chelsea and several other top European sides’ radars after scoring 35 goals in 52 games for Leipzig last year, in turn helping them secure a fourth-placed Bundesliga finish.
Capable of operating both up front and just behind a striker, Nkunku’s speed, creativity and eye for goal makes him an appealing option for Tuchel. It could be exactly what he is missing.
However, reports suggest Leipzig have slapped an eye-watering £100million price tag on him this summer, with the two remaining years on his contract ensuring they can demand a sizeable fee. Thus, breaking the bank for a player with one impressive season under his belt may be too big of a risk for Chelsea.
Likelihood of arrival: 1/5
Christopher Nkunku could be the perfect recruit, but RB Leipzig want £100m for their star man
Another attacking option for Chelsea is Dembele, who as things stand will be leaving Barcelona upon the expiry of his contract in just over a week’s time.
Tuchel has identified the France winger, whom he previously worked with at Borussia Dortmund, as a potential target in his bid to strengthen the Blues’ frontline next season.
Dembele, 25, is expected to wave goodbye to Barca after failing to reach an agreement over a contract extension at the Nou Camp, where he has registered just 32 goals and 34 assists in 150 appearances amid a series of injury and disciplinary problems.
Chelsea’s reported pursuit of Sterling does not necessarily rule out a move for the outgoing Barca star, with Tuchel in need of more quality in their attacking-midfield slots.
Though, according to The Sun, Dembele is seeking reassurances from the Blues boss over his game time in west London, as he does not want to be used sparingly next season.
Likelihood of arrival: 3/5
Ousmane Dembele is available on a free transfer as he prepares to leave Barcelona this month
The 25-year-old is wanted by Tuchel, whom he previously worked under at Borussia Dortmund
As well as up front, Chelsea are crying out for defensive reinforcements this summer after losing Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen on free transfers.
Kounde, who is capable of playing at both centre back and right back, has been in the Blues’ sights for some time, but after failing to meet Sevilla’s asking price last summer they instead decided to promote academy graduate Trevoh Chalobah.
With Rudiger and Christensen gone, the 23-year-old is now being linked with a move to Stamford Bridge again – although Barcelona could well provide competition.
Catalunya Radio claim he is in ‘advanced talks’ to join Barca this summer, meaning Stamford Bridge chiefs need to act swiftly if they are to get their man.
Having agreed personal terms with the Premier League side last year, though, Kounde’s preference is still likely to be a move to Chelsea if forced to pick between the two teams.
Likelihood of arrival: 3/5
Sevilla defender Jules Kounde remains a top defensive target for Chelsea this summer
Chelsea’s interest in Sterling and Dembele shows Tuchel is not best pleased with the attacking options at his disposal, and Pulisic looks most likely to depart should the former pair arrive this summer.
The American got off to an electric start at Stamford Bridge, producing a series of dazzling displays in the 2019/20 campaign, however in recent seasons he has generally flattered to deceive and proved too wasteful in front of goal.
Tuchel only afforded him 13 league starts last term as a result, which The Athletic claim is because he mainly views him as an impact player to bring off the bench.
Pulisic could therefore be moved on to free up space in attack next season, with both AC Milan and Juventus reportedly keeping tabs on his situation.
The Italian clubs are unlikely to match the £58million fee Chelsea spent on him in 2019, but at the age of 23 and with two years to run on his deal they can command a sizeable transfer fee.
Likelihood of departure: 3/5
Christian Pulisic could depart Stamford Bridge if Sterling or Dembele arrive this summer
Tuchel reportedly sees the American mainly as an impact player to bring on from the bench
Like Pulisic, the Germany forward has not been good enough in recent seasons and has failed to live up to the hype since arriving from RB Leipzig in 2020.
His measly return of 10 goals in 56 Premier League outings is not what he or Chelsea would have been hoping for when they paid £54million to beat Liverpool to his signature.
After playing a key part in their 2021 Champions League triumph Werner was expected to kick on and begin showing why he had emerged as one of the most dangerous attackers in European football at Leipzig, but last season his struggles in front of goal continued.
According to football.london, Chelsea are open to cutting their losses and selling him should the right offer present itself this summer.
Yet as of right now there is not much interest from elsewhere in Werner, whose £14million-a-year wages have deterred Borussia Dortmund from bringing him back to the Bundesliga.
Likelihood of departure: 2/5
Timo Werner’s struggles in front of goal continued throughout the 2021-22 campaign
Chelsea are reportedly willing to listen to offers for the Germany forward this summer
After snapping up Christensen on a free transfer Barcelona want to raid Chelsea for a second time this summer by signing Alonso, who only has a year to run on his current deal.
When Ben Chilwell is fit and firing the Spaniard is second choice at left wing-back, while Emerson Palmieri’s return from a loan spell at Lyon could also reduce his game time if Tuchel decides to keep the Italy international around next season.
A move to Barca could therefore suit all parties, with only one transfer window remaining for Chelsea to cash in before Alonso will be able to negotiate a free transfer at the turn of the year.
He hinted at a potential return to Spain during a recent interview with radio station Onda Cero, saying: ‘On paper, I have a contract for one more year and that is where we’re at today. I’ve already said that I would like to play in Spain again, but it doesn’t depend entirely on me.
‘I can’t complain about anything at Chelsea, but the desire to play in Spain is there. It doesn’t depend entirely on me and I’m happy at Chelsea, honestly.’
Likelihood of departure: 4/5
Marcos Alonso is wanted by Barcelona this summer and has hinted at a move back to Spain
If Christensen and Alonso weren’t enough, Chelsea’s captain has also been pinpointed as a transfer target by Barcelona this summer.
Like Alonso, Azpilicueta has a year to run on his Blues contract after triggering an extension by making a certain number of appearances in 2021-22 – but Xavi is desperate to lure his compatriot to Catalonia as a replacement for outgoing right-back Dani Alves.
The Sun claim Barca are losing patience and have warned him that they will have no option but to turn their attention elsewhere if Azpilicueta does not force a move away from Stamford Bridge.
However, after spending a decade with Chelsea that is not in the 32-year-old’s interests, meaning a potential switch is unlikely to be on the cards.
And given Tuchel has already lost both Rudiger and Christensen, he cannot afford any more defensive exits in the summer window.
Likelihood of departure: 1/5
Cesar Azpilicueta would have to force a move away from Chelsea if he is to join Barcelona
Chelsea have a host of contract dilemmas on their hands over the next 12 months, and Jorginho is another squad member entering the final year of his deal this summer.
The former Napoli midfielder has been heavily linked with a return to Italy of late, despite playing a starring role when Tuchel’s side lifted the Champions League in 2021.
Juventus are understood to be eyeing a potential deal, meaning Chelsea must decide whether to stick or twist over the coming months.
Given he is already competing with N’Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek for a place in midfield, Conor Gallagher’s return from a loan stint at Crystal Palace could render Jorginho surplus to requirements.
Though with that being said, the 30-year-old’s playmaking ability offers something different for Tuchel in the middle of the park, and Fabrizio Romano claims Chelsea are still hoping to tie him down to an extension.
Likelihood of departure: 2/5
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