Chelsea could have a major problem on their hands trying to shift Romelu Lukaku this summer after Inter Milan CEO Giuseppe Marotta refused to provide any assurances that the Nerazzurri will be pursuing the permanent signing of the Belgian frontman. The 29-year-old was on the bench for the Italian side as they booked their place in the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time since 2010 following a slightly fortuitous 0-0 draw against Porto (1-0) in Portugal.
Lukaku has scored just five goals in 18 matches in all competitions this season which has been wrecked by a number of injury problems including hamstring, bicep, knee and ankle issues.
Earlier in the season, Inter held extensive talks with Chelsea over potentially keeping Lukaku beyond June when his current loan move at the San Siro is due to expire.
But now Marotta has indicated Inter are unlikely to purchase the out-of-form striker, making it clear the current plan is for him to return to Chelsea at the end of the season.
“The loan was for one season so on June 30 regardless of how well he plays, he’ll go back to Chelsea," Marotta told Sky Italia.
“This has been an unprecedented season. I’m referring, of course to the (winter) World Cup. The problems we’ve experienced have been experienced by other clubs too and the Players who played at the World Cup.
“Lukaku is a case in point. (Marcelo) Brozovic isn’t the Brozovic we know. Lukaku hasn’t found the fitness he needs to play his best football. He’s still not at his best or the player we got to see in years gone by.”
Chelsea are likely to demand a premium fee for Lukaku given he cost the club £97.5million in the summer of 2021.
Although Graham Potter has decided he will assess the situation at the end of the season, it seems unlikely Lukaku will feature as part of his plans at Stamford Bridge.
Given the Blues have spent over £600million since the arrival of Todd Boehly, Chelsea need to find ways of raising cash through player sales.
With Lukaku desperately out of form and struggling to maintain fitness levels, there will now be concern that his value has dropped significantly.
Potter also said in early February that the signing of Lukaku should serve as a warning that spending big does not necessarily guarantee success.
“I think we need to improve as a team. If you look back 18 months, from the outside Chelsea wasn’t scoring and they thought they’d spend close to £100 million on a centre-forward [Lukaku] and that would fix all their problems, and it didn’t," he said.
“You have to attack better as a team and that’s our challenge - that’s what we need to do.”
Lukaku is among a growing list of stars that could be set to leave Chelsea at the end of the season as the Blues look to clear the decks.
Christian Pulisic and Hakim Ziyech also look set to head towards the exit door while Mason Mount's future is also unclear due to his contract situation (deal up in the summer of 2024).
Inter's stance on signing Lukaku could yet change should Chelsea indicate they are willing to offload the player at a cut-price.