Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has confirmed that Romelu Lukaku has apologised for comments he made in a recent interview and has returned to the squad after being dropped.
However, while prepared to protect Lukaku from the publish backlash, the Blues boss is not ready to immediately move past the incident and bizarrely added ‘there may still be a smell’.
In an unauthorised interview with Sky Sport Italia recorded some time ago but that was published just days before Chelsea were due to face Liverpool in a huge Premier League clash, Lukaku openly admitted he wasn’t happy. He also spoke freely about wanting to return to former club Inter in the future.
Tuchel responded by dropping the Belgian from the squad ahead of the Liverpool clash, seemingly with input from talks with senior players in the squad. But after sitting Sunday out, conversations with the boss behind closed doors have seen Lukaku reinstated.
“First of all, we are happy that we took the time to look calmly on it, this is what we did. He apologised and is back in the squad for training today. The most important thing was to understand and believe it was not intentional,” Tuchel stated at his press conference on Tuesday.
“It is not that big as people or want it to be. It is also not small but small enough to stay calm, to accept an apology and to move on,” he added, insisting it won’t simply be brushed under the rug.
“He is aware of what he created and feels the responsibility to clean the mess up, but there may still be a smell, of course. We are happy that he is our player and we will protect him.”
Tuchel is adamant there are no doubts over Lukaku’s commitment to Chelsea, although he did also seem to hint that the interview may have changed some perceptions.
“He is very committed,” the boss explained. “That is why it was so surprising to me. He scored against Villa and then the next game but he was there and decisive. I never, before the interview, had the slightest doubt that he was not committed.
“He is an emotional guy. He does not hold back with his opinion. We should not just blame him and point on the negative side of it, we have to adapt. It created some noise that you don't want but there are zero doubts in his commitment to the team.
“Was the intention to create trouble? To leave the club? I don't know, put pressure on the coach? No. Of course he should have known better but that is why we have cleared the air together.”