LONDON (AP) — Chelsea record-signing Romelu Lukaku heads into talks with manager Thomas Tuchel on Monday uncertain when he will play again but assured he has a future despite being dropped for going public with his frustrations.
The striker, who missed Sunday's 2-2 draw with Liverpool, had said he was “not happy with the situation” at Chelsea and indicated he didn’t like Tuchel’s style of play.
The comments were made in a television interview that was conducted before Lukaku scored last Sunday and again on Wednesday in the Premier League but it was only aired later by broadcaster Sky in Italy.
But there is a way back into the team for the 28-year-old Lukaku. Monday's talks with Tuchel come two days before Chelsea is next in action, hosting Tottenham in the semifinals of the League Cup.
“He’s our player, he will stay our player,” said Tuchel. “We will always protect our players and, when we make decisions like this, first we need to evaluate the situation, not listen to the media but understand what he said and why he said it.
“If the decision is he’s good to go for Wednesday for the Tottenham match, this is the decision. But I cannot tell you right now because we need to talk and understand the situation better."
Tuchel did consult some of Lukaku's teammates over leaving him out of the game at Stamford Bridge.
“I take decisions for the team," Tuchel said. "I have players to listen to them and hear their opinion and what they think. I make my decisions once I hear them out. It’s their club, it’s their team, and it’s not personal for me to decide only because of my beliefs.
“We have to protect the strong beliefs and values of the squad. Regularly we speak to five or six players to get the inside view, to have a clearer evaluation of the situation."
Lukaku first joined Chelsea in 2011 but spent two years on loan before being sold to Everton in 2014. He returned to Chelsea this past offseason in a deal worth nearly 100 million pounds (then around $140 million). after he netted 24 Serie A goals to help Inter win the Italian league title for the first time since 2010.
But Lukaku has had a frustrating first season back in London where he was out injured for a month and missed time in December after contracting the coronavirus.
“It’s not the first time that an interview out there causes some noise," Tuchel said. “But we can handle it, I don’t feel personally attacked, I don’t feel personally angry. But the noise was too big, on Friday there were two statements and too much noise."
More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports