Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has suggested Romelu Lukaku will still be at the club next season despite a hugely underwhelming year back at Stamford Bridge.
Lukaku hit the ground running after his £97.5m move from Inter last summer, but following an injury layoff, a bout of coronavirus and an ill-advised explosive interview with Italian media, his form has waned and the goals have dried up.
The striker's return to the club hit another low on Sunday when he was left on the bench against Everton when Chelsea were chasing the game and needed a goal.
90min understands the Blues are prepared to let their club-record signing leave in the summer, with his former employers Inter and Paris Saint-Germain among those interested in the Belgian.
However, with Chelsea essentially operating under a transfer embargo due to the sanctions imposed on current owner Roman Abramovich by the UK government, Tuchel has revealed Lukaku may well be at Stamford Bridge next season out of necessity.
The measures will only be lifted once a takeover of the club is complete, although a consortium led by LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly is close to finalising a deal.
Speaking ahead of the Premier League clash with Wolves on Saturday, Tuchel addressed Lukaku's future and admitted Chelsea were already "behind" in the transfer window.
"I want him to be an important part of the squad. Right now, he is a very important part of the squad next season. There is no way, no recruitment, no players about to leave because it is simply not possible," Tuchel said.
"If the situation changes, we need anyway to adapt all the time to contractual situations, individual situations of the players, what we want and think, and what the development will be. We signed a big player, and he is still a big player.
"He didn't come on [vs Everton] because we had three changes and used one. Unfortunately had to use one at half-time for Jorgi. He trained very well, and maybe he will start tomorrow. Let's see."
Asked about the upcoming transfer window, Tuchel continued: "There is none in the moment [recruitment], not possible. You say so [the takeover will be complete before the window opens]. We are not sure. Maybe yes.
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"In the moment, it's a very small process. You look at it, that's it. We cannot make contact, get in touch, convince nobody. We cannot make offers, so we are having a look, and have ideas. That's it.
"We are behind in that race. We said before, yes. Maybe it is a disadvantage but not a decisive disadvantage. Whatever team it is will be competitive because we have competitors. The club will always be strong. Even if things turn out and it's the same squad, we will arrive for the very first match to win the match. We have never done anything else and will never do anything else.
"We have clear ideas on how to improve, how to freshen the squad, improve the squad, bring new energy and new quality. It would not be the first transfer window where you have a wish and cannot make it as a coach. We will find solutions, but first of all, we must adapt to the general situation. Then we see if it is possible and what is possible."