Romelu Lukaku is closing in on a return to Inter Milan less than a year since Chelsea forked out a club-record £97.5m to re-sign him… so where does the misfiring striker rank amongst their biggest transfer flops EVER?
- Romelu Lukaku is set to leave Chelsea just 10 months since returning to the club
- The Belgian headed back to Stamford Bridge for a club-record £97.5m last year
- But after an underwhelming season he is now nearing a return to Inter Milan
- Lukaku looks likely to go down as one of the biggest flops in Chelsea’s history
- He joins the likes of Alvaro Morata and Fernando Torres on the unwanted list
Romelu Lukaku is edging closer towards a return to Inter Milan, meaning he looks set to go down as one of the most expensive mistakes in Chelsea’s history.
The Blues forked out a club-record £97.5million to prise Lukaku away from Inter last September, which initially appeared a masterstroke when he netted four in goals in his first four appearances.
Yet, a serious injury problem in November marked the beginning of his downfall in SW6, as afterwards the Belgian striker struggled to work his way back into Thomas Tuchel’s plans, hit out at his manager in an explosive Sky Italia interview and only scored another five league goals all season.
Romelu Lukaku looks set to leave Chelsea just 10 months after sealing a £97.5million return
He is therefore expected to leave Stamford Bridge and head back to Inter, who are keen to re-sign him on an initial loan deal this summer.
But where does Lukaku rank amongst Chelsea’s biggest ever flops? Sportsmail has drawn up a list of their 10 worst buys.
10. Timo Werner – £53m
When they beat Liverpool to the signing of Werner in 2020, Chelsea believed they had just got their hands on one of the best forwards in European football, with his return of 34 goals for RB Leipzig in the previous campaign convincing them to pay £53million for his services.
He got off to a decent start, registering eight goals and five assists in his first 17 outings under Frank Lampard. Since then, however, only 15 goals and 16 assists have come in his next 72 appearances.
After two full seasons at Stamford Bridge the Germany international has a mere 10 Premier League goals under his belt, meaning so far he has undoubtedly failed to live up to the billing.
Lukaku is poised to join a long list of Blues flops, including current team-mate Timo Werner
Werner has failed to live up to expectations since completing a £53m switch from RB Leipzig
With that being said, Werner did play a key role in Chelsea’s Champions League triumph under Tuchel last year, getting on the scoresheet in their semi-final win over Real Madrid.
And at the age of 26, he still has enough time to go on and prove his inclusion on this list premature.
However, unless his fortunes dramatically improve over the next few years Werner’s stint at Chelsea is likely to go down as a major anti-climax.
9. Fernando Torres – £50m
Speaking of anti-climaxes, not many transfers have proven more so than Torres’ dramatic £50million switch from Liverpool to Chelsea.
On deadline day in January 2011, the Spaniard earned himself lifelong villain status at Anfield when he packed up to join a direct rival, whose British record offer was simply too good to turn down.
In three-and-a-half years with the Reds he had earned a reputation as perhaps Europe’s best out-and-out centre-forward thanks to a superb return of 81 goals in 142 games.
There was plenty of hype surrounding Fernando Torres’ £50m move from Liverpool to Chelsea
But Torres needed almost 1,000 minutes of football to get off the mark for the Blues
The Spaniard did play a key part in Champions League and Europa League triumphs
Though prior to his move to Chelsea, Torres had began to show signs of decline after a serious knee injury – and that decline soon became disaster when he rocked up at the Bridge.
Incredibly, it took him 14 matches and 903 minutes to open his account for the Blues, coming in a 3-0 win over West Ham at the end of April.
Things did improve for El Nino over the next couple of seasons, as he picked up Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League winners’ medals while making some valuable contributions along the way. Who can forget that famous goal against Barcelona which sent Gary Neville into orbit?
In the end Torres’ three-and-a-half year Chelsea career was not a complete failure, but on the whole he never rediscovered the lightning pace and clinical touch which set him apart from the rest at Liverpool, meaning his overall tally of 45 goals in 172 games was a disappointment.
On the whole, though, Torres never rediscovered top form in his time at Stamford Bridge
8. Michy Batshuayi – £33m
On the back of an impressive season with Marseille and having made some decent contributions for Belgium at Euro 2016 Batshuayi earned himself a lucrative move to Chelsea that summer.
The striker, 22 at the time, largely played understudy to Diego Costa throughout his debut season, popping up with nine goals as Antonio Conte’s men romped home to the Premier League title – including the strike that crowned them champions away at West Brom.
Yet five years on that title-clincher remains one of his only significant moments in a Chelsea shirt. The following season, Batshuayi flattered to deceive when called upon in attack, scoring only two league goals in the first half of the campaign before being sent out on loan to Borussia Dortmund.
Despite scoring nine in 14 for the German club, he was offloaded to Valencia and Crystal Palace in 2018/19, where an overall return of nine goals in 36 games sent his career on a downward trajectory.
Lampard used him on occasions the following season, reaping the rewards when he bagged a last-gasp winner away at Ajax in the Champions League, only for Batshuayi to spend the next two on loan at Palace again and Besiktas.
As things stand Batshuayi will leave Chelsea upon the expiry of his contract this month, bringing the curtain down on an underwhelming stint in SW6.
Michy Batshuayi has proven another underwhelming purchase for Chelsea in recent years
The Belgian has spent the last few years out on loan, plying his trade with Besiktas in 2021/22
7. Baba Rahman – £23m
Quite what Chelsea were thinking when they paid well over the odds for Rahman in 2015 remains a mystery.
Jose Mourinho was keen to strengthen his title-winning squad with world-class reinforcements that summer as he looked to retain their crown the following season, but the unknown Ghana left-back’s arrival was hardly the kind of elite addition he had in mind.
Prior to his £23million move, Rahman had spent one year in the Bundesliga with Augsburg after joining from German second-tier outfit Greuther Furth. Somehow, Blues officials had seen enough in his 31 top-flight appearances to bring him to the Premier League.
As Mourinho’s second spell at the Bridge unravelled that season, their new defensive recruit produced a string of below-par displays, featuring 23 times before heading out on loan to Schalke in 2016.
Chelsea’s decision to spend £23million on unknown defender Baba Rahman remains a mystery
Rahman spent just over two years with the Bundesliga club, making 26 appearances in that time, and has since endured mediocre spells with Reims, Mallorca, PAOK and Reading.
Though astonishingly, he was handed a new three-year Chelsea contract before joining the latter last summer. Talk about flogging a dead horse…
6. Andriy Shevchenko – £31m
The poster boy of Roman Abramovich’s big-money failings, Shevchenko arrived at Chelsea in 2006 with a lofty reputation as one of the best strikers in world football.
In his time with AC Milan the Ukrainian recorded 173 goals in 296 games, helping them win both Serie A and the Champions League. But his fearsome aura quickly evaporated in England.
At the age of 29 there were question marks over whether Shevchenko was past the peak of his powers, though that didn’t stop Abramovich from breaking the English transfer record to sign him for £31million.
Unfortunately for the Russian and Chelsea, those fears turned out to be justified when he scored just four goals in his first 30 league appearances.
Then-manager Mourinho never warmed to his expensive recruit, and following another miserable return in the 2007/08 season Shevchenko rejoined Milan on loan.
Once that drew to a close, Chelsea chose against offering him a new deal and instead released their record buy on a free transfer, with a mere 22 goals to show for his brief stint in west London. Disastrous.
Andriy Shevchenko is the poster boy of Roman Abramovich’s expensive failings as owner
Jose Mourinho never warmed to the former AC Milan striker in his debut season at the club
Shevchenko eventually left Chelsea on a free transfer having scored a mere 22 goals
5. Danny Drinkwater – £35m
Leicester’s title-winning midfielder was at least expected to play a rotational role for Chelsea after completing an expensive move from the King Power in 2017.
Alongside midfield partner N’Golo Kante he helped write a true sporting fairytale by capturing the Premier League with the Foxes in 2016, though it’s fair to say he never reached similar heights at the Bridge.
Antonio Conte used Drinkwater 22 times in the 2017/18 campaign, only for the Italian’s successor Maurizio Sarri to cast him to one side the next season, merely using him in the Community Shield.
It was at the end of this sorry campaign when his Chelsea career and general reputation took a turn for the worst; as in April 2019, Drinkwater was charged with drink driving after crashing his Range Rover in Cheshire, injuring two passengers in the process.
Danny Drinkwater’s miserable spell at Chelsea is set to end upon the expiry of his contract
The incident sparked a downward spiral in his fortunes and off the pitch. During a loan spell with Burnley in 2019/20, he found himself at the centre of controversy once again when seen headbutting a man in a nightclub amid a heated dispute with Scunthorpe United’s Kgosi Ntlhe. He then headed out on another loan to Aston Villa in the second half of that season, but that ended in disgrace when a training ground bust-up with Jota resulted in the club terminating his loan.
The crestfallen player later enjoyed a brief stint in Turkey with Kasimpasa, a stint in Chelsea’s reserves and a loan spell at Reading last term. Drinkwater is now set to depart Chelsea in July, marking a shambolic purchase for the club.
4. Tiemoue Bakayoko – £36m
Fresh from helping Monaco win the French title and reach the semi-finals of the Champions League, Bakayoko was sought out by Chelsea as they looked to bolster Conte’s title-winning squad in the summer of 2017.
The powerhouse midfielder initially made a strong impression, performing well in a derby victory over Tottenham and quickly becoming a key member of Conte’s midfield.
Yet, as the Blues’ title defence petered out over the next six months so did Bakayoko’s form, with a series of stinkers making his regular inclusion in the side somewhat of a mystery.
Tiemoue Bakayoko’s debut season at Stamford Bridge was a complete and utter disaster
The Frenchman has not played for Chelsea since, spending the last four years out on loan
An awful debut season then reached its nadir during a trip to Watford in February 2018, when he managed to pick up two yellow cards just 30 minutes in at Vicarage Road. Chelsea were eventually beaten 4-1 on the night.
Bakayoko has failed to earn another appearance for the club since that season, spending the next four years on loan with AC Milan (twice), former club Monaco and Napoli.
Next season the Blues flop will remain with Milan, who have an obligation to buy him outright in 2023.
3. Kepa Arrizabalaga – £72m
With every season that passes Chelsea’s decision to spend a whopping £72million on the Spanish goalkeeper becomes more and more puzzling.
At the age of 24, Kepa was undoubtedly viewed as a long-term investment for the club, and after his first season their expensive outlay did not seem unreasonable.
He performed heroics in two penalty shootouts as the Blues won the Europa League and reached the League Cup final, although his infamous refusal to be substituted by Maurizio Sarri in the latter showpiece was a sign of things to come.
Kepa Arrizabalaga initially got off to a flyer at Chelsea after joining for £72million in 2018
But a series of high-profile gaffes have since cost him his starting place in between the sticks
The following season, Kepa’s form and overall standing in European football plummeted dramatically. A number of high-profile gaffes cost Chelsea throughout the campaign, leaving boss Lampard with no choice but to rotate him with backup goalkeeper Willy Caballero on several occasions.
After his No 1 recorded the second-lowest save percentage in the Premier League, Lampard brought in Edouard Mendy from Rennes in the summer of 2020 – and Kepa has failed to regain his starting place ever since.
There have still been a few highs, including when he was brought off the bench to inspire a shootout victory in last season’s Super Cup. Nevertheless, back in February Kepa sunk to his lowest moment in a Chelsea shirt when he sent a spot-kick into Row Z to cost them in the Carabao Cup final.
He still has three years to run on his contract and, at 27, could yet reach his peak. But as things stand Kepa is set to go down as a costly disaster for the Blues.
The nadir of Kepa’s Chelsea stint came when he skied a penalty in February’s League Cup final
2. Alvaro Morata – £60m
Another club-record nightmare, Morata had the unenviable task of replacing Diego Costa at the pinpoint of Chelsea’s attack when he completed a £60million switch from Real Madrid in 2017.
The season beforehand he had reached the 20-goal mark for the very first time, suggesting the 24-year-old was very much on the up.
And Morata hit the ground running under Conte at Chelsea. His first seven outings brought as many goals, including a spectacular hat-trick away at Stoke, with Costa a distant memory.
Unfortunately for the Spaniard, that opening flurry proved the high point of an otherwise gloomy spell at the Bridge. In his next 41 appearances, he bagged just eight more goals while drawing criticism from supporters for his lack of physicality. Costa’s aggression and fearlessness was suddenly lacking.
Sarri tried to install faith in Morata the following season, yet a return of five goals in 16 league matches saw him quickly lose patience and loan him out to Atletico Madrid in January 2019.
Atletico eventually bought him outright in the summer of 2020, and one positive for Chelsea was they somehow managed to recoup the entirety of their club-record transfer fee. However, as a transfer alone Morata proved one of the most uninspiring in the Blues’ history.
Alvaro Morata also got off to a great start after becoming Chelsea’s club-record signing
However, Blues fans quickly grew tired of the Spaniard’s lack of physicality and poor form
1. Romelu Lukaku – £97.5m
When the Belgian strode back into Stamford Bridge with a commanding swagger last year it seemed like Tuchel had found the final piece of his Chelsea jigsaw. Albeit a pricey one.
Lukaku got his second spell with the club up and running with four goals in as many games, though excluding the Club World Cup, he only produced another eight all season.
After returning from an ankle injury at the end of November he failed to regain his place in Tuchel’s side, resulting in the bombshell Sky Italia interview which rocked Chelsea’s season just before the New Year.
Lukaku’s near-£100m return has to go down as Chelsea’s greatest ever transfer mistake
Tuchel dropped Lukaku for their subsequent clash with Liverpool but installed faith in him after the 2-2 draw. However, his big-money signing then went 10 games without a league goal.
He finished the season on a high by scoring three in two against Wolves and Leeds, but the writing appears to be on the wall for Lukaku in west London.
Inter are now poised to re-sign him on an initial loan deal this summer, with Chelsea demanding a fee of £20million to make it happen. Though regardless of how much they receive, Lukaku’s near-£100million return can only go down as a catastrophic failure if he never plays for the club again.
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