Chelsea’s club-record signing Romelu Lukaku was dropped from the squad for the 2-2 draw against Liverpool by manager Thomas Tuchel days after the release of a controversial interview that the $135 million forward gave to an Italian media outlet.

In the sit-down with Sky Sports Italia — which was reportedly conducted several weeks ago and without authorization from the club — Lukaku said he was not happy at Chelsea, citing an alleged change in tactics by Tuchel. While Lukaku did also state that he was a professional and committed to working hard for the club, the release of those comments still caused a media storm.

What especially irked Chelsea fans was the fact that Lukaku spoke in glowing terms about his time at Inter Milan and his desire to one day return to the Italian club that he helped lead to a league title in 2020-21 prior to his move to Chelsea.

MORE: Tuchel’s comments in response to the Lukaku interview

Tuchel was forced to address the Lukaku interview in the news conference the day before the Liverpool match and the German manager lamented that it was “noise that we don’t need”. He also made the case that he has implemented minimal tactical tweaks to the team: “You will find not a lot of system changes, if you find any.”

It was all the noise that ultimately led Tuchel to leave Lukaku out of the squad for the Liverpool match, pushing the next meeting with the player to Monday.

“We needed some time,” Tuchel said after the Liverpool match. “I think we can handle it. It’s not the first time that something like this happens in my career. I don’t feel personally attacked or disappointed. It’s nothing about personal. But the thing got too big on a Saturday if you play Liverpool on Sunday. It simply got too big. There was too much noise.

“For that [reason], 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. There was no time for second thoughts or third thoughts about this. And that’s why we do it [Monday].” 

Lukaku hasn’t spoken publicly about the incident except to respond to former Everton teammate Tim Howard in a text exchange and disclose 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.”

Here’s what Tuchel told Sky Sports UK before kickoff of the Liverpool match to explain his decision to axe Lukaku from the squad despite the fact that the Belgian international had scored in each of his last two outings:

What Lukaku said about Tuchel, Chelsea

The timing of the Sky Sports Italia interview release was curious, given it reportedly was conducted three weeks prior. It also came at a time when Lukaku seemed to be gaining some momentum after an injury saw him miss an extensive stretch. He scored in his first two matches back in the lineup.

“I’m not happy with the situation and that’s only natural,” Lukaku told Sky Sports Italia in comments translated from Italian. “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.”

There was plenty of speculation as to what Tuchel would do in response. His decision to drop Lukaku from the squad was a clear sign that the interview was perceived as conduct detrimental to the team.

Will Lukaku leave Chelsea? What happens next?

Tuchel made it clear after the Liverpool match that there is a path for Lukaku to return to being a contributor at Chelsea.

“He’s our player. There’s always a way back but we will clear this in Cobham [Training Center] behind closed doors,” Tuchel said. “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.”

Lukaku’s comments to Sky Sports Italia may have come during a moment of frustration as he was making his way back from a lengthy injury absence during what has been a choppy start to his return at Chelsea.

He has missed eight of 21 league matches and he has only scored in four of his 13 appearances for a total of five Premier League goals. He also found the net twice in the four Champions League matches he played.

MORE: Premier League top scorers table in 2021-22

Tuchel referenced the difficult start to the season that the Belgian international has experienced after joining in August on a $135 million transfer fee from Inter Milan: “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.”

Given the level of investment made by Chelsea, it’s hard to see the defending European champions looking to offload a player deemed to be critical to their ability to challenge for major titles in 2021-22. Differences in tactical opinions are commonplace inside clubs and can be resolved. The main issue in this case is the judgment shown by the 28-year-old in airing his opinions to the media — and apparently blindsiding his own manager and hurting his team in the process.

Especially since Lukaku made it clear in the interview that he’d continue to work hard and be professional — he did score two goals since doing the sit-down interview — it would seem there is a willingness from the player to make the situation work. However, it’s the words he expressed about Inter Milan and his love for his former Italian club that will probably be the hardest part to digest for Chelsea supporters.

The reaction among fans and media has been mixed, with most siding with Tuchel for a squad decision many felt he had to make. Meanwhile, some Chelsea supporters also expressed a feeling of betrayal: