Romelu Lukaku was dropped from the Chelsea squad by Thomas Tuchel for Sunday’s crucial Premier League clash with Liverpool after revealing he is unhappy with how his second spell at Stamford Bridge is going.
The Belgian returned to Chelsea for a club record £98 million ($132 million) in August after two successful seasons with Inter Milan.
In an interview with Sky Italy, recorded in mid-December but only aired earlier this week, Lukaku also admitted he would like to return to Inter in the near future.
“Physically I am fine. But I’m not happy with the situation at Chelsea,” Lukaku said.
“Tuchel has chosen to play with another system. I won’t give up, I’ll be professional.
“I really hope in the depths of my heart to return to Inter, not at the end of my career, but at a still good level to hopefully win more.”
Tuchel admitted on Friday he was surprised by Lukaku’s comments, describing them as “noise we don’t need” and “not helpful”.
Even so, his decision to axe Lukaku for the Liverpool showdown is a major gamble at a vital point in Chelsea’s season.
After winning only one of their last four league games, Chelsea trail 11 points behind leaders Manchester City and are only one point ahead of third-placed Liverpool.
Lukaku was expected to be the final piece in the jigsaw for Chelsea when he joined the Champions League winners in a blockbuster transfer.
The 28-year-old scored on his debut against Arsenal in August among four goals in his first four games.
But he then scored just once in his next 12 appearances either side of suffering an ankle injury in October.
When Lukaku returned after five weeks out, he was unable to regain his place and looked sluggish when he did feature from the bench.
Tuchel even admitted Chelsea looked more dynamic when Lukaku was not in the side during that period.
The former Manchester United striker also tested positive for coronavirus in December to further slow his return to the starting line-up.
However, Lukaku has had a recent upturn in form, scoring in his last two Premier League appearances against Aston Villa and Brighton.
Liverpool have their own coronavirus issues ahead of the trip to Stamford Bridge with manager Jurgen Klopp isolating along with Alisson Becker, Roberto Firmino and Joel Matip, having returned suspected positive tests.