Thomas Tuchel explained why he left Romelu Lukaku out of the Chelsea squad that takes on Liverpool on Sunday because his explosive interview had become too big of a distraction.
The 28-year-old spoke to Sky Italia three weeks ago, though the interview was only released on Thursday, and revealed he ‘was not very happy’ at Chelsea and accused his manager of ‘playing a different formation’ that does not get the best out of him.
Lukaku also revealed he was hoping to return to former club Inter Milan while he is still in the prime of his career, with his comments causing confusion and anger at Chelsea.
Tuchel has reacted by axing Lukaku from the matchday squad but has suggested this is only a short-term measure to remove the Belgian from a difficult and ‘noisy’ situation.
Asked why Lukaku is not in the squad, Tuchel told Sky Sports, via the Metro, shortly before kick-off: “The thing got too big, the thing got too noisy, so close to the match, so I decided to protect the preparation of the match, so that is why he is out.”
Probed on whether he has spoken to the striker, Tuchel continued: “Yeah. Of course we have spoken, we’ve spoken twice, I’ve spoken to the main players, of course, but after that we had to realise it was too close to the match, it’s too big.
“We delayed the decision over what to do, but while we are delaying we have to protect the preparation of the match.
“We have a big game to play and we need full focus, which is hard to get even without this decision, but it was easier in my opinion if he is not in the squad, and that is why we did it.”
Tuchel added: “For sure it was a difficult decision, but in my opinion it was the decision to take.”
Although Lukaku never had any intention of trying to leave Chelsea when he gave his interview, ESPN report that he could have a change of heart if Tuchel continues to leave him out of the squad and if he is hit with a big fine.
Tuchel said he was confused and bewildered by Lukaku’s interview, feeling that his words were in stark contrast to his behaviour, while he was also perplexed by his remarks about playing with a different formation.
Discussing the situation regarding Lukaku prior to Sunday, Tuchel also told Sky Sports: “I will not try to tell you that we are happy about it. Does a dressing room always need to be a sensitive dressing room? Does it always need to be full of harmony? No. It’s sometimes even good if it’s not always in full harmony.
“But to speak out on these things, as a big player and as a big signing and as a key player for us – who behaves on a daily basis like he is absolutely happy – that is a concern of course, and it is very, very surprising.
“We have to speak to him, he has to speak to us, so we can understand it. Because it is very hard to understand because how he behaves, how he plays, how he scores, even now right after injury, how he behaves on a daily basis, how we have talks with myself… it’s very surprising.”
Asked specifically about the formation comment, Tuchel added: “I don’t know actually! We decided actually not to play a different formation so that’s why it’s a kind of surprise on many levels!”