Interbound Romelu Lukaku was never meant for Chelsea

The Chelsea striker is set to make a sensational return to Inter Milan.

Have you ever bought a pair of snakeskin cowboy boots because you swore to yourself that this is the year you will stop caring about what other people think and finally live your primal truth, just for the sake of it wear? going out to a reception in the evening with unanimous derision before deciding you actually look like a complete idiot, leading to your subsequent, somewhat shameful donation to the local British Heart Foundation charity shop?

No? Yes, me neither. Honest. But Chelsea has.

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Romelu Lukaku turns out to be the Blues’ signature pair of snakeskin cowboy boots.

See, this time things should be so very different.

But since then, there’s no denying that Lukaku paid his dues.

Whether it was his burgeoning rise at Everton, his doomed purgatory at Manchester United or his almighty demolition job at Inter Milan, the striker eventually proved to be the most fabled of all mythical footballers – a tall man with a wealth of qualities in his inside leg measurement.

In theory, a return to Chelsea last summer should have been the perfect reunion – a chance for the player to show everything he’s learned throughout his continental odyssey at a team that, in many ways, was crying out for a focus for him of sorts.

Instead, Lukaku is now on the cusp of a year-long loan back to Inter just 12 months after leaving the San Siro.

The prodigal son came home, burned the garden shed, and now he’s gone again.

Aside from the fact that things aren’t really that simple, neither was Lukaku’s botched homecoming a fiasco of his own design.

Admittedly, the 29-year-old was less ‘thoroughbred’ and more ‘Blackpool donkey’ last term, and his anticipated renaissance has become something of a rehashed nuisance that eerily reflects the inexplicable curse that has also fallen to many of his big-money predecessors are to West London.

Eight goals in 26 Premier League games does not make a successful club record. But there are probably other factors at play here as well.

Certainly no one but Chelsea themselves can take the blame for the £97.5million they spent to secure his signature at first instance.

Even in a market with astronomically inflated prices, that number felt like a considerable gamble – especially given that Lukaku’s last stint in England with United ended in such ignominious circumstances.

Likewise, the Blues’ decision not to pay more than £10.3m in loan fees is a responsibility the player cannot shoulder himself. Of course, as far as temporary arrangements go, that’s still costly, but the optics of an £87million disparity just a year away from his arrival at Stamford Bridge are bleak no matter the deal.

And then there are the reasons it flopped so badly.

Even with Lukaku scoring free points early in the season and running amok like Popeye in a spinach cannery, it was hard to shake the feeling that he could succeed despite Thomas Tuchel’s tactics, not because of them. By the time the honeymoon was over and the novelty had worn off, it turns out.

Spectators will rightly argue that the striker himself must take at least some responsibility for his incongruity, that perhaps he should have shown a greater willingness to adjust his play if the manager adjusted his approach.

But when a player with the Belgian’s apparent pedigree is limited to just SEVEN touches over the course of 90 minutes against a side like Crystal Palace (no disrespect to Paddy and the lads), one can’t help but wonder if the problems are too so are systemic as well as individualistic. In the end it was less “square pin, round hole” and more “Boeing 747, keyhole”.

When Lukaku’s frustration boiled over and he declared in a surprisingly candid interview in December that he wanted to return to Italy in the “near future”, Miss Marple didn’t need to see that the writing was on the wall.

Whether it was tactical incompatibility, a breakdown in personal relationships or even something else entirely, only Lukaku – and perhaps Tuchel – will know why things didn’t go as expected for the striker.

Now aged 29 and with back-to-back Premier League missteps sullying his textbook, it’s hard to imagine the forward ever returning to England.

The good news for him is that in Milan, the fashion capital of the world, snakeskin cowboy boots might just be acceptable. Interbound Romelu Lukaku was never meant for Chelsea


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