Romelu Lukaku ended his standoff with Chelsea by arriving in the Italian capital on Tuesday with the aim of joining Italian club Roma on a season-long loan deal that would see the Belgium striker look to revive his career in a third spell under coach Jose Mourinho.
Throngs of yellow-and-red clad Roma fans were awaiting Lukaku at the Ciampino airport as he descended from a plane flown by Roma’s American owner Dan Friedkin.
Lukaku was undergoing a medical with Roma immediately after his arrival and then can sign with the Giallorossi.
The cost of the loan for the 30-year-old Lukaku is reportedly 8 million pounds ($10 million), taking the cumulative transfer fees spent on the former Manchester United, Everton and Inter Milan center forward to nearly 300 million pounds (around $375 million) — second only to Neymar in soccer history.
Chelsea certainly hasn’t got its money’s worth out of Lukaku since he joined from Inter Milan for a club-record fee of $135 million in August 2021 for a second spell at the west London team.
He scored just eight goals in 26 Premier League appearances in his first year back, when he was dropped midway through the season for saying in a newspaper interview that he wasn’t happy at Chelsea. Lukaku then spent last season back at Inter Milan on loan.
It became clear during the recent offseason that the relationship between Chelsea and Lukaku was broken, so the race was on to find a club for the striker before the end of the transfer window.
Juventus was linked with a move for Lukaku but a section of the club’s fans voiced its objection.
Ultimately, Roma has decided to take a chance on Lukaku, uniting him again with Mourinho after stints under the Portuguese coach at Chelsea (2013-14) — even if he was sent on loan to Everton that season — and at Manchester United from 2017-18.
Considered for a time as one of the world’s most devastating strikers, Lukaku — the record scorer for Belgium’s national team — has been criticized for his fitness levels and finishing ability in recent seasons. The last time he delivered a streak of consistently strong performances was during Inter’s run to the Italian title in 2020-21, when he was the club’s top scorer and second only to Cristiano Ronaldo in Serie A.
Injuries have also set back Lukaku, who wasn’t fully fit at last year’s World Cup in Qatar and missed a slew of great chances in the group finale against Croatia as Belgium was eliminated in the group stage.
His future at Chelsea looks bleak, especially if Mauricio Pochettino hangs around as manager.
Pochettino didn’t even refer to Lukaku by name when answering numerous questions about striker last Thursday, instead saying “the player.”
He wasn’t prepared to reintegrate Lukaku to the squad despite a lengthy early season injury list that has left Pochettino with only one fit recognized striker — offseason signing Nicolas Jackson.
Lukaku will at least be playing in European competition this season at Roma, which qualified for the Europa League. Chelsea failed to qualify for Europe.
Roma needed a new center forward with Tammy Abraham out long-term after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the final match of Serie A last season.
Andrea Belotti has done well so far replacing Abraham with two goals in Roma’s opening 2-2 draw with Salernitana. Roma was then beaten 2-1 by Hellas Verona in its second match.
Roma has reached two consecutive European finals under Mourinho, winning the inaugural Conference League in 2022 and losing the Europa League final to Sevilla at the end of last season.
AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf in Rome contributed.
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