Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel admitted to being surprised by Romelu Lukaku’s comments about being unhappy at the club and he vowed to talk to the $135-million star “behind closed doors.” However, the two have repaired their relationship and will now put the matter behind them

After dropping Lukaku for the 2-2 draw with Liverpool over the weekend, Tuchel said the matter is closed after Lukaku apologized.

“First of all, we were happy that we took the time needed to talk calmly on it,” Tuchel said in his pre-match press conference ahead of the Carabao Cup semifinal against Tottenham on Wednesday. “This is what we did. He apologised and he is back in the squad.”

“It was clear for us to understand that he did not do this intentionally. Also, this is the very first time that he behaved like this. There was never a slightest behaviour against the team. This was the first time we felt him this way.”

Tuchel made it clear that the club did not believe the matter to be as unsettling as was made out last week. “It is not as big as you or people want it to be,” Tuchel said. “We accept his apology and move on. He is aware of the mess he created and feels responsible to clear it up. There may be a bit of a smell from it, but there are zero doubts about his commitment to the team and club. We have to be adult enough to accept the apology.”

Prior to the Liverpool match, it was clear Tuchel was peeved by the situation, but didn’t let it get too overblown, and removed Lukaku from the squad to push out the noise and allow the squad to prepare with less distraction.

“The thing [media noise] got too big on a Saturday if you play Liverpool on Sunday,” Tuchel said after the Liverpool match. “It simply got too big. There was too much noise. For that, we protected the preparation we need. We took him out the squad to have quiet preparation, to have full focus. This is a huge game and you need to play it at top level.” 

Despite the upheval last weekend, Tuchel sounded confident at the time about how the situation will be managed in the days to come.

“I think we can handle it. It’s not the first time that something like this happens in my career. I don’t feel persoanlly attacked or disappointed. It’s nothing about personal.

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“He’s our player. There’s always a way back, but we will clear this in Cobham [Training Center] behind closed doors. And once we have made a decision, club and coach, and once Romelu knows, then you [media] will maybe know also, and not before. This is not to be discussed now. Let’s wait some days and give you more information.”

What did Lukaku say?

As for Lukaku, he hasn’t made any formal statements or apologies just yet, except to text former Everton teammate Tim Howard and share that the player and Tuchel are “going to have another meeting on Monday. I can speak more after that. Right now the situation is too hot.”

Lukaku returned to Stamford Bridge from Inter in a big-money summer transfer after two successful years in Italy, committing to a five-year contract with the Blues.

However, the 28-year-old has not been an automatic starter under the German as he has dealt with a string of fitness issues, and now he has risked the wrath of club officials by expressing his frustration in the Italian media.

Lukaku sat down with Sky Italia to discuss his situation at the start of December and admitted to being unhappy in west London.

The Belgium international also hinted at a possible return to Inter, saying: “Physically I’m fine, even better than before. After two years in Italy, in which I worked a lot at Inter with coaches and nutritionists.

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“I’m not happy with the situation and that’s only natural. The head coach has decided to play a different system but I need to keep working hard and be professional.

“I’m not happy with the situation but I’m a worker and I cannot give up.”

Tuchel’s initial response to Lukaku interview

Lukaku’s remarks came as a shock to Tuchel, who claimed to have seen no signs of any dejection or anger from the forward in training.

Speaking ahead of Chelsea’s clash with Liverpool, the German head coach told reporters: “We will talk with Lukaku openly behind closed doors. I am surprised because I don’t see him unhappy — the opposite.

“We here can take the time to try to understand what is going on with Romelu, it does not reflect the daily attitude.”

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Tuchel says the publication of the interview was an unwanted distraction for his side, but he is reluctant to criticize Lukaku at this stage in case his words have been misinterpreted.

“We don’t like it, of course. It brings noise that we don’t need and it’s not helpful,” he added.

“We don’t want to make more out of it than it actually is. It is easy to take lines out of context, shorten lines, make headlines and then realize later that it is not so bad and maybe not what he meant.”

Tuchel denies Lukaku’s claim of system change

The central focus of Lukaku’s criticism was a shift in tactical approach by his manager, but speaking out in the wake of his player’s words, Tuchel rubbished the idea that he has overhauled his setup.

“What I read is that he said we changed a system,” Tuchel stated. “If you put a little bit of work in our systems, you will find not a lot of system changes, if you find any. So, end of discussion.”

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Tuchel further acknowledged that the length between Lukaku’s original interview and its publication has played a part in muddying the waters.

“This is exactly the problem we have out of it because you have a quote from another match in another direction and he says he had a chat with me. And then the suggestion comes and it seems the chat was about how he was not happy how we used him,” he added.

“This is absolutely a super-normal chat and we have it with Romelu. We have a discussion now where it seems that he was on the bench and we benched him because other players suited our style of playing better.

“Romelu played when he came, then he got injured, then he caught COVID. It does not make it better, but that is my situation. He gave an interview so maybe he has a problem so he needs to speak up. I don’t have one.”