Michy Batshuayi has extended his Chelsea contract until 2023 and joined Besiktas on loan for the 2021-22 campaign.

Batshuayi, who joined the Blues in 2016, has spent much of his time at Chelsea out on loan.

He thrived with Borussia Dortmund in 2018, though struggled at Valencia the following season, switching to Crystal Palace on a temporary basis for the back half of 2018-19.

The Belgium forward was a target for Palace in the following transfer window, but remained at Chelsea. He made 24 appearances, though few of them were starts, scoring seven goals.

Batshuayi did return to Selhurst Park last season, though scored just two goals from 18 Premier League appearances for the Eagles.

The 27-year-old had entered the final year of his Chelsea deal, but that has now been renewed, with an immediate season-long loan to Turkish champions Besiktas confirmed on Wednesday.

"Very very happy to join Besiktas," Batshuayi, who received a huge welcome when he landed in Istanbul, tweeted.

"An incredible opportunity for me and I'm already looking to play. Thank you to all the fans for the crazy welcome at Istanbul. See you at the stadium very soon."

Batshuayi slipped further down the pecking order at Chelsea upon the arrival of his compatriot Romelu Lukaku, who re-joined the European Champions in a reported £97.5million (€115m) deal from Serie A champions Inter last week.

He is the third centre-forward to leave the club this transfer window, with Chelsea having sold Olivier Giroud to Milan, while Tammy Abraham was unveiled as a Roma player on Tuesday.

Thomas Tuchel still has plenty of high-quality attacking options at his disposal, with Lukaku spearheading a forward line that also includes Timo Werner, Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic, with support provided from midfielders Mason Mount, Hakim Ziyech and Callum Hudson-Odoi.

Manchester City's interest in signing Tottenham's Harry Kane is widely known but a deal appears no closer to materialising. 

The 28-year-old forward was absent for the two sides' Premier League game on Sunday, when Spurs took the points.

City have reportedly bid up to £125 million to sign the England international, who reportedly requested a move late last season.

TOP STORY - KANE FRUSTRATED AS SPURS REJECT CITY BID

Kane has grown frustrated with Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy and thrown down the gauntlet with a proposed move to Manchester City, reports The Telegraph.

According to the report, the England forward feels that Levy has not honoured their meeting at the end of the 2019-20 season when he requested to leave Spurs if they underachieved.

Kane is also frustrated that Levy's tactics have seen fans turned against him and that the chairman is also refusing to sell or even accept calls from City.

The report claims that City have submitted a fresh £125m bid for Kane, which Spurs have turned down.

 

ROUND-UP

- El Larguero claims that Paris Saint-Germain director Leonardo has informed the players that Kylian Mbappe will stay to see out the remainder of his contract, due to expire in mid-2022, scuppering Real Madrid's hopes of signing him this month or in January.

- Samuel Umtiti, Martin Braithwaite and Miralem Pjanic are all on the chopping block at Barcelona, according to Diario AS, which claims the Catalans must sell three players this month to reduce their salary bill despite Lionel Messi's exit.

- Martin Odegaard is set to re-join Arsenal on a permanent deal from Real Madrid, says Fabrizio Romano. Talks are at their final stages with a deal until 2026.

- Tottenham are keen on Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma, reports Sky Sports. The Blues would demand a £25 million fee for the Frenchman.

- Internazionale are in talks to sign forward Marcus Thuram from Moenchengladbach, claims Sky Sport Italia.

- The Sun reports that Wolves are talking to Olympiacos about signing Portuguese defender Ruben Semedo on a one-year loan.

Cristiano Ronaldo is suddenly the name dominating the transfer rumour mill.

The Portuguese superstar is reportedly drawing interest from multiple quarters.

Is a departure from Juventus on the cards?

 

TOP STORY – RONALDO SPECULATION ABOUNDS

Ronaldo is the subject of widespread speculation around Europe. 

Paris Saint-Germain would like Ronaldo to replace Kylian Mbappe if the France international departs for Real Madrid this summer window or next, says Calciomercato, opening up the tantalising prospect of a partnership with Lionel Messi.

Meanwhile, El Chiringuito suggests Carlo Ancelotti could make a move to bring Ronaldo back to the Santiago Bernabeu.

Elsewhere, Corriere dello Sport claims Ronaldo has offered his services to Manchester City.

 

ROUND-UP

- Barcelona could swap Philippe Coutinho to Arsenal in their bid to land Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, according to Sky Sports. 

- Despite signing an extension with PSG through 2023 just a few months ago, Julian Draxler could be on the way out. Kicker says a Bundesliga team, likely Bayer Leverkusen, have made a €20m offer. 

- Hector Bellerin wants out of Arsenal, The Athletic reports, saying Inter are monitoring the situation. The Star says the Gunners could move him back to Barca in a swap deal for Emerson Royal.

- Juventus will make a final bid of €35million to Sassuolo for Manuel Locatelli, reports Fabrizio Romano. 

- Tottenham want to add Patrick Bamford to their attack but Leeds are keen to sign him to a long-term extension, says the Mirror. 

- West Ham are still trying to land Kurt Zouma from Chelsea, says the Guardian.

- Lyon are looking to pry Emerson Palmieri away from Chelsea on a loan deal with an option to buy, L'Equipe reports. 

- Clement Lenglet could be on the move from Barcelona to Roma, says Gianluigi Longari. 

Is Kylian Mbappe's future nearing a resolution?

Mbappe is out of contract at the end of the season and the Paris Saint-Germain forward is no closer to extending his contract in the
French capital.

Real Madrid are reportedly poised to pounce.

 

TOP STORY – MADRID NEARING MBAPPE DEAL?

Real Madrid are closing in on Paris Saint-Germain star Kylian Mbappe, according to the front page of Monday's Marca.

Mbappe is in the final year of his PSG contract and he has reportedly made it clear he has no intention of re-signing in Paris.

Long touted to join Madrid, the LaLiga giants' pursuit of Mbappe is set to enter a decisive phase this week.

The Transfer Window podcast, however, claims Liverpool will attempt to sign Mbappe on a free transfer at the end of the 2021-22 season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Sport reports Barcelona are monitoring Arsenal pair Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang as they look to rebuild following Lionel Messi's departure to PSG.

- Inter are eyeing Napoli captain Lorenzo Insigne but want a discount on the Italy star, claims Sky Sport Italia. Napoli value Insigne at around €25-30million with one year remaining on his contract. Lazio's Joaquin Correa, Atalanta forward Duvan Zapata and Fiorentina sensation Dusan Vlahovic have also been linked to Inter.

- Sport Italia says Tottenham are in talks with Fiorentina for centre-back Nikola Milenkovic, who has been linked with West Ham. Spurs are also keen on Fiorentina star Vlahovic, according to Sport Italia.

- According to Cadena SER, Antoine Griezmann is open to returning to Atletico Madrid this off-season. Griezmann swapped Atletico for Barca in 2019.

Luka Jovic has decided he wants to join Inter on loan, per Nerazzurri Siamo Noi. The Madrid outcast has also been linked with Eintracht Frankfurt, Sampdoria and Genoa.

Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City are tracking Metz's 18-year-old midfielder Pape Matar Sarr, claims the Daily Mail.

Manchester City's interest in signing Tottenham forward Harry Kane is well known.

The two sides will meet on Sunday in the Premier League with the situation adding spice.

Spurs have held out on City's interest although the matter will develop as the conclusion of the transfer window approaches.

 

TOP STORY – SPURS HOLDING FIRM ON KANE

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy is refusing to budge as Manchester City attempt to sign Harry Kane, reports The Telegraph.

Levy will come face to face with City officials in Sunday's Premier League meeting between the two sides.

The report claims the Spurs chairman is unwavering in his plan to retain his best player despite Kane expressing his desire to leave.

ROUND-UP

- Despite that, Tottenham continue to be linked with big-money moves, hinting they are expecting funds in their pockets soon, with Villarreal's Pau Torres firmly in their sights for £55m (€65m) according to The Mirror.

- Tammy Abraham's proposed switch from Chelsea to Roma is imminent according to The Athletic. The fee is reportedly worth €40m (£34m) with a buy-back clause after his second season.

- Calciomercato claims that Bayern Munich are willing to accept Hector Bellerin as part of a straight swap with Arsenal for Corentin Tolisso .

- Despite heavy speculation, Liverpool are yet to formally lodge a bid for Atletico Madrid's Saul Niguez claims AS.

- Former Atletico Madrid and Chelsea striker Diego Costa is set to complete his move to join Brazilian club Atletico Mineiro until December next year reports Fabrizio Romano.

Romelu Lukaku has returned to Chelsea after the European champions signed the Belgium forward from Inter for a reported £97.5million (€115m) fee.

After winning the Champions League, Chelsea have been in the hunt to further bolster Thomas Tuchel's squad with the acquisition of a top-tier striker.

Erling Haaland was a target, but Chelsea saw their approach rebuffed by Borussia Dortmund, who are in no need to sell the Norwegian star after they brought in €85m (£72.6m) for Jadon Sancho.

Chelsea subsequently switched their focus to Lukaku, who led Inter to their first Serie A title in a decade last season, netting 24 league goals.

An initial offer was reportedly turned down but, after Lukaku – who had earlier claimed he wanted to stay at San Siro and play under new coach Simone Inzaghi – indicated he wished to leave, Inter opted to sell their prized asset.

"I'm happy and blessed to be back at this wonderful club," Lukaku told Chelsea's website. "It's been a long journey for me: I came here as a kid who had a lot to learn, now I'm coming back with a lot of experience and more mature.

"The relationship I have with this club means so much to me, as you know. I have supported Chelsea as a kid and now to be back and try to help them win more titles is an amazing feeling."

Chelsea have by no means signed the 28-year-old cheaply, however, with the reported fee a club record.

It also falls just £2.5m short of the British transfer record set by Jack Grealish's switch to Manchester City. Lukaku has signed a five-year deal to head back to Stamford Bridge.

 

Lukaku's departure will come as a blow to Inter but does relieve some of the financial pressure on the Italian giants, as they needed to raise funds through player sales.

Achraf Hakimi has left to join Paris Saint-Germain, while Lautaro Martinez has also been touted as potentially leaving, though Inter would surely be loath to lose both of their forwards in the same transfer window.

Lukaku joined Everton on a permanent basis in 2014 after enjoying a stellar campaign on loan with the Toffees.

He had signed for the Blues as a teenager in 2011 from Anderlecht, though his first-team outings were limited before he went on to join West Brom on loan.

Lukaku became Everton's record Premier League goalscorer, netting 68 times before joining Manchester United for £75m in 2017. 

Despite a promising start at Old Trafford, Lukaku failed to find his best form under Jose Mourinho. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer allowed him to leave for Inter in 2019, a move that reignited his career.

Having thrived under Antonio Conte, Lukaku now rejoins Chelsea as one of the world's leading players at his position.

Romelu Lukaku has returned to Chelsea after the European champions signed the Belgium forward from Inter for a reported £97.5million (€115m) fee.

After winning the Champions League, Chelsea have been in the hunt to further bolster Thomas Tuchel's squad with the acquisition of a top-tier striker.

Erling Haaland was a target, but Chelsea saw their approach rebuffed by Borussia Dortmund, who are in no need to sell the Norwegian star after they brought in €85m (£72.6m) for Jadon Sancho.

Chelsea subsequently switched their focus to Lukaku, who led Inter to their first Serie A title in a decade last season, netting 24 league goals.

An initial offer was reportedly turned down but, after Lukaku – who had earlier claimed he wanted to stay at San Siro and play under new coach Simone Inzaghi – indicated he wished to leave, Inter opted to sell their prized asset.

"I'm happy and blessed to be back at this wonderful club," Lukaku told Chelsea's website. "It's been a long journey for me: I came here as a kid who had a lot to learn, now I'm coming back with a lot of experience and more mature.

"The relationship I have with this club means so much to me, as you know. I have supported Chelsea as a kid and now to be back and try to help them win more titles is an amazing feeling."

Chelsea have by no means signed the 28-year-old cheaply, however, with the reported fee a club record.

It also falls just £2.5m short of the British transfer record set by Jack Grealish's switch to Manchester City. Lukaku has signed a five-year deal to head back to Stamford Bridge.

 

Lukaku's departure will come as a blow to Inter but does relieve some of the financial pressure on the Italian giants, as they needed to raise funds through player sales.

Achraf Hakimi has left to join Paris Saint-Germain, while Lautaro Martinez has also been touted as potentially leaving, though Inter would surely be loath to lose both of their forwards in the same transfer window.

Lukaku joined Everton on a permanent basis in 2014 after enjoying a stellar campaign on loan with the Toffees.

He had signed for the Blues as a teenager in 2011 from Anderlecht, though his first-team outings were limited before he went on to join West Brom on loan.

Lukaku became Everton's record Premier League goalscorer, netting 68 times before joining Manchester United for £75m in 2017. 

Despite a promising start at Old Trafford, Lukaku failed to find his best form under Jose Mourinho. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer allowed him to leave for Inter in 2019, a move that reignited his career.

Having thrived under Antonio Conte, Lukaku now rejoins Chelsea as one of the world's leading players at his position.

The new Premier League season has not even begun yet and we're already enjoying some enthralling narratives.

Beyond the mundane matter of who might win the league, who will beat the drop and how thick the VAR lines will be, there are some tantalising stories we'll be following closely in the coming weeks.

Below, Stats Perform takes a look at some of the big talking points...

 

Blue Benitez

Predicting football is often a fool's game – especially in an era when Lionel Messi no longer plays for Barcelona – but Rafael Benitez at Everton? Who saw that coming?

The Spaniard is back in the Premier League, two years after walking away from Newcastle United, having been tempted by the same project that won over Carlo Ancelotti before the lure of a Real Madrid return became too great.

Benitez was a fans' favourite at Newcastle, arguably as much as he was at Liverpool, where he reached two Champions League finals including the unforgettable triumph in Istanbul. His connection to the red half of Merseyside meant his decision to head to Goodison Park raised the eyebrows of some and the blood pressure of others. In fact, only one man has ever managed both clubs: William Edward Barclay, Everton's first boss in 1888 and Liverpool's manager from 1892. We'll forgive you if you don't remember.

The scrutiny on Benitez, who has recorded 11 wins against Everton in his coaching career, will be severe. He has the credentials, but if he cannot quickly prove he is the man to realise the dreams of owner Farhad Moshiri and challenge the 'big six', the pressure could become pretty uncomfortable.

 

Virgil return lifts Reds

For a while, it seemed everything would be okay. In the first 11 games after Virgil van Dijk was injured against Everton last October, Liverpool conceded just six goals and kept as many clean sheets. Perhaps the loss of the Netherlands colossus would not be quite so damaging.

Of course, as injuries in defence piled up and confidence in their title chances waned, Liverpool's season ended up being one of major disappointment even though a strong final few weeks saw them snatch a Champions League spot.

Van Dijk's impact cannot really be disputed: since his move to Anfield in January 2018, Liverpool have won 75.8 per cent of matches with the centre-back in the side and only 54.3 per cent without him. They average 2.4 points per game with him (compared with 1.9 without), and even score more goals on average (2.3 compared with 1.8) when he's playing. No wonder fans began to count down the days to his return.

On Saturday, we can finally expect to watch Van Dijk in competitive action again, with Jurgen Klopp confirming he is fit to start the season. He could even begin his partnership with new signing Ibrahima Konate against Norwich City at Carrow Road. How Liverpool's campaign progresses over the opening few weeks, and how Van Dijk's return goes, might just tell us whether another title tilt is on the cards.

 

Rom-ember us?

Two of the biggest transfers in this pre-season have seen stars returning to England: Jadon Sancho, who finally got his Manchester United move for £72.9million a year after Borussia Dortmund had demanded a sizeably bigger sum; and Romelu Lukaku, who is heading to Chelsea for roughly £93m.

Sancho left Manchester City for the Bundesliga as a teenager and promptly became one of Europe's standout attacking players, with 50 goals and 57 assists in 137 appearances. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer wanted a player to get fans on their feet, and he's almost certainly found it: Sancho completed 48 multi take-ons (beating more than one player with a dribble) in the Bundesliga, at least 14 more than any other player in his time in Germany.

For Lukaku, it's a case of unfinished business at Chelsea, the club he left back in 2014. The standout performer for Inter last season, with 30 goals and 11 assists in all competitions, he propelled his side to their first Serie A title since 2010 before taking up the chance to return to Stamford Bridge, where a consistent goalscorer could be decisive to their Premier League title hopes.

Sancho and Lukaku initially struggled to convince managers to give them a shot as youngsters in the Premier League. They return as elite players determined to prove a point. Given the costs involved, the pressure will be on both to perform – and quickly.

 

Did Jack hammer Harry's City hopes?

Manchester City are not exactly frugal in the transfer market, but rarely will they willingly pay over the odds for an individual. That's what made their willingness to spend £100million on Jack Grealish, a player with 12 senior international caps and zero Champions League experience, a touch surprising.

This is not to suggest Grealish is not a good player, of course. This is a man who was involved in a remarkable 376 open-play attacking sequences over the past two seasons for Aston Villa, a team who finished 17th and 11th in those campaigns. It's just notable that Pep Guardiola felt it was warranted to smash City's transfer record by nearly £40m to sign yet another midfielder, especially given what's going on – or not going on – with Harry Kane.

Kane was expected to be City's marquee signing in this window but, as of now, his future is unclear. He is finally due to return to Tottenham training this week but whether he is involved against City in their opening game is harder to know. And if City were willing to spend nine figures on Grealish, you can expect Spurs chairman Daniel Levy to demand top dollar for last term's golden boot winner, who has three years left on his contract.

Will City stump up the cash? Will Kane try his best to force Spurs' hand? Will he be staying in north London for at least a few months more, his form undimmed, the goals flowing as normal? It will be fascinating to watch.

 

Chelsea have been in the market for a new striker and are closing in on their man.

The European champions had been linked with Borussia Dortmund's prolific Norway international Erling Haaland.

But have turned their attention to Inter striker Romelu Lukaku, with two bids reportedly rejected last week.

 

TOP STORY - LUKAKU TO COMPLETE CHELSEA MOVE

Lukaku will finalise his £97.5m (€115m) move from Inter to Chelsea after linking up with the Blues, reports Sky Sports.

The report claims the Belgium international flew into London on Wednesday evening, after a stop in Monte Carlo.

Lukaku had already undergone the first part of his medical and agreed in principle to the deal, with the paperwork being sorted with lawyers before he inks the five-year deal worth £200,000 (€236,000) per week.

 

ROUND-UP

- As the dominoes fall, Edin Dzeko is set to join Inter from Roma with a contract agreed until June 2023 according to Fabrizio Romano.

- Sky Sports reports that Real Madrid are monitoring Chelsea's Germany defender Antonio Rudiger . Madrid lost centre-backs Sergio Ramos and Raphael Varane this off-season.

- Roma head coach Jose Mourinho will speak with Chelsea forward Tammy Abraham on Thursday to try to convince him to join the Eternal City club. According to The Mirror. Chelsea and Roma have agreed terms on a £34m (€40m) deal.

- Sky in Italy claims Inter have tabled a €12m bid for PSV Eindhoven right-back Denzel Dumfries, although the Dutch club reportedly want €14m for the Netherlands international.

- Inter are also interested in Napoli skipper Lorenzo Insigne, according to Sky in Italy. The Serie A champions are trying to see if they can sign the Italy international, whose contract expires next year, for €25m.

- Arsenal are in advanced talks with Sheffield United to sign goalkeeper Aaron Ramsdale, according to Football London.

- Sunsport reports Manchester United are finally expected to unveil Varane as a new signing from Real Madrid on Thursday.

Villarreal forward Gerard Moreno says Chelsea are the "best team in the world" following the European champions defeat over the Spaniards in the Super Cup on Wednesday.

Chelsea won 6-5 over penalties after a 1-1 draw with Villarreal across 120 minutes at Belfast's Windsor Park.

Moreno scored Villarreal's 73rd-minute equaliser after Hakim Ziyech had opened the scoring in the 27th minute.

Chelsea's victory extended the run of eight of the past nine Champions League winners lifting the Super Cup.

The Spanish forward was full of praise for Chelsea, who had more possession and generated 20-12 shots and 7-5 shots on target.

"[We’re] now competing with the best," Moreno said post-game. "Chelsea were the favourites.

"I don’t know what the difference in budget is, but for me they’re the best team in the world."

Villarreal head coach Unai Emery beamed with pride in his side after the game.

"It’s a pride to represent this club, Villarreal and La Liga on a day like today," Emery said post-game.

"You cannot blame the players for anything because they’ve made a fantastic effort."

Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel becomes the third consecutive German coach to win the Super Cup, while he extends his unbeaten run against Spanish opposition to nine games.

Romelu Lukaku's final kick of his first spell at Chelsea came in a Super Cup.

On August 30, 2013, the Belgian – then 20, still young, albeit one with the physical stature of a player much further on in his career – missed the decisive penalty as Chelsea became the first team to lose successive Super Cup fixtures, going down in a shoot-out to Bayern Munich.

Not long after that game, Lukaku headed to Everton, initially on a loan deal before he made a permanent move to Goodison Park a year later. A return to Chelsea, however, has always seemed a possibility for the striker who stormed onto the scene with Anderlecht in his teens.

Whereas a Super Cup marked the end of his first spell in London, Wednesday's meeting with Villarreal showed just why the Blues are set to break their transfer record to sign the 28-year-old, who arrives back at the club a Serie A winner and one of Europe's leading forwards.

This time, Lukaku watched on from afar as Chelsea, defeated on penalties by Liverpool in the 2019 edition, clinched victory in the shoot-out after a 1-1 draw in Belfast – Kepa Arrizabalaga coming on to be the hero.

 

ROM THE REMEDY

It seems wrong to be too critical of Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea, given their remarkable success in his short time at the club. They went unbeaten in their first 14 games under the German, secured a top-four finish, reached the FA Cup final and, of course, won the Champions League.

Yet from Tuchel's appointment until the end of last season, Chelsea scored only 38 goals in all competitions.

The chances were being created - it would be difficult for players such as Mason Mount, who crafted the second-most opportunities in the Premier League last season, Hakim Ziyech, who opened the scoring in Belfast before going off injured, Christian Pulisic and Champions League final goalscorer Kai Havertz not to fashion their fair share.

Much was made of Timo Werner's first season at the club too, as the former RB Leipzig forward fluffed his lines time after time. He finished with six league goals but from 79 attempts, registering a shot conversion rate of just 7.59 per cent, while he only netted five of the 23 'big' chances, as defined by Opta, that came his way.

Up until the 27th minute at Windsor Park, when Ziyech tucked in from Havertz's centre, it was all Chelsea, but the same issues which had plagued their frontline last season were present once more.

In the sixth minute, Marcos Alonso's brilliant cross caught Werner on his heels. It would have been a gift for Lukaku. Werner forced a great save from the resulting corner, though that was the only shot he managed in his 65 minutes on the field.

More issues came after Ziyech's opener, as Chelsea (who had 67.9 per cent possession before the break) failed to add to their lead and let Villarreal – who levelled through Gerard Moreno – claim control.

Lukaku's imminent arrival, however, should ensure this profligacy, demonstrated again by Pulisic's 100th-minute miss from close range, is not repeated throughout the coming campaign.

Chelsea ended the game against Villarreal with 20 attempts, of which seven were on target. Had Lukaku's signing come in time, it is hard to imagine penalties would have been required at all to decide the outcome.

KEPA THE HERO

While Chelsea's forwards toiled, it was forgotten man Kepa who came on to be the difference.

In the 119th minute, Edouard Mendy made way for the former Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper – just over 17 minutes after that change, Kepa dived low to his right to keep out Raul Albiol's weak effort and ensure the Champions League holders have now lifted the Super Cup in eight of the past nine seasons.

It was a brave call by Tuchel, who follows in the footsteps of compatriots Jurgen Klopp and Hansi Flick in winning the Super Cup – German coaches having triumphed in the last three editions.

With Lukaku soon to be back on board, it could – and perhaps should – be the first trophy of many for the Blues this term.

For now, though, this was just a nice story for Kepa, the keeper who once refused to be taken off in a cup final had come on late to help decide the outcome in his team's favour.

Romelu Lukaku's final kick of his first spell at Chelsea came in a Super Cup.

On August 30, 2013, the Belgian – then 20, still young, albeit one with the physical stature of a player much further on in his career – missed the decisive penalty as Chelsea became the first team to lose successive Super Cup fixtures, going down in a shoot-out to Bayern Munich.

Not long after that game, Lukaku headed to Everton, initially on a loan deal before he made a permanent move to Goodison Park a year later. A return to Chelsea, however, has always seemed a possibility for the striker who stormed onto the scene with Anderlecht in his teens.

Whereas a Super Cup marked the end of his first spell in London, Wednesday's meeting with Villarreal showed just why the Blues are set to break their transfer record to sign the 28-year-old, who arrives back at the club a Serie A winner and one of Europe's leading forwards.

This time, Lukaku watched on from afar as Chelsea, defeated on penalties by Liverpool in the 2019 edition, clinched victory in the shoot-out after a 1-1 draw in Belfast – Kepa Arrizabalaga coming on to be the hero.

 

ROM THE REMEDY

It seems wrong to be too critical of Thomas Tuchel's Chelsea, given their remarkable success in his short time at the club. They went unbeaten in their first 14 games under the German, secured a top-four finish, reached the FA Cup final and, of course, won the Champions League.

Yet from Tuchel's appointment until the end of last season, Chelsea scored only 38 goals in all competitions.

The chances were being created - it would be difficult for players such as Mason Mount, who crafted the second-most opportunities in the Premier League last season, Hakim Ziyech, who opened the scoring in Belfast before going off injured, Christian Pulisic and Champions League final goalscorer Kai Havertz not to fashion their fair share.

Much was made of Timo Werner's first season at the club too, as the former RB Leipzig forward fluffed his lines time after time. He finished with six league goals but from 79 attempts, registering a shot conversion rate of just 7.59 per cent, while he only netted five of the 23 'big' chances, as defined by Opta, that came his way.

Up until the 27th minute at Windsor Park, when Ziyech tucked in from Havertz's centre, it was all Chelsea, but the same issues which had plagued their frontline last season were present once more.

In the sixth minute, Marcos Alonso's brilliant cross caught Werner on his heels. It would have been a gift for Lukaku. Werner forced a great save from the resulting corner, though that was the only shot he managed in his 65 minutes on the field.

More issues came after Ziyech's opener, as Chelsea (who had 67.9 per cent possession before the break) failed to add to their lead and let Villarreal – who levelled through Gerard Moreno – claim control.

Lukaku's imminent arrival, however, should ensure this profligacy, demonstrated again by Pulisic's 100th-minute miss from close range, is not repeated throughout the coming campaign.

Chelsea ended the game against Villarreal with 20 attempts, of which seven were on target. Had Lukaku's signing come in time, it is hard to imagine penalties would have been required at all to decide the outcome.

KEPA THE HERO

While Chelsea's forwards toiled, it was forgotten man Kepa who came on to be the difference.

In the 119th minute, Edouard Mendy made way for the former Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper – just over 17 minutes after that change, Kepa dived low to his right to keep out Raul Albiol's weak effort and ensure the Champions League holders have now lifted the Super Cup in eight of the past nine seasons.

It was a brave call by Tuchel, who follows in the footsteps of compatriots Jurgen Klopp and Hansi Flick in winning the Super Cup – German coaches having triumphed in the last three editions.

With Lukaku soon to be back on board, it could – and perhaps should – be the first trophy of many for the Blues this term.

For now, though, this was just a nice story for Kepa, the keeper who once refused to be taken off in a cup final had come on late to help decide the outcome in his team's favour.

Thomas Tuchel explained his extra-time goalkeeper substitution was based on statistical data, not spontaneity, with Kepa Arrizabalaga making two shoot-out saves to win the Super Cup for Chelsea.

Gerard Moreno's second-half strike cancelled out Hakim Ziyech's opener at Windsor Park and, with penalties looming, Tuchel sent on Kepa for Edouard Mendy in the closing minutes.

The Spain goalkeeper denied both Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol in the shoot-out, ensuring a 6-5 penalties win for Chelsea after a 1-1 draw to secure their second Super Cup.

Speaking to BT Sport after the game, Tuchel explained his decision to bring on Kepa was pre-discussed and based on data introduced to him by his analysts and goalkeeping coaches.

"It was not spontaneous," Tuchel responded when asked about the extra-time change. "We talked about it with the goalkeepers after the first cup game against Barnsley. We had some statistics. We were well prepared."

"Kepa has the best percentage at saving penalties. We spoke to the players that this could happen when we play in knockout games. It's fantastic how Edouard [Mendy] accepted it.

"There is proof that Kepa is better in this discipline. They're team players. Edouard does not show the pride to not step off the field. He was happy to do it for the team and take this for the team."

It was a strange reversal of roles for the former Athletic Bilbao man – the world's most expensive goalkeeper – who in the 2019 EFL Cup final refused to go off when then-Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri attempted to bring on Willy Caballero. Chelsea went on to lose on penalties to Manchester City.

However, Kepa's heroics in Belfast banished any potential Super Cup demons for Chelsea, who picked up their first triumph since 1998, having lost to Atletico Madrid in 2012 and suffered shoot-out heartbreak against both Bayern Munich and Liverpool in 2013 and 2019.

Wednesday's win also ensured Tuchel, the third German coach in a row to lift the Super Cup after Jurgen Klopp and Hansi Flick, maintained his perfect record against Spanish opposition, winning four and drawing five of nine games.

It was not all good news after Chelsea's win, however, with Hakim Ziyech's shoulder injury marring another memorable European outing for Tuchel's men.

Ziyech did return to the stands in the second half with his arm in a sling, though Tuchel conceded "if you take a player out during the first half it's serious."

Chelsea will await news on the extent of Ziyech's injury while their attention now turns to hosting Crystal Palace in their Premier League opener on Saturday.

Kepa Arrizabalaga and Edouard Mendy credited one another after the former was introduced in extra-time and produced shoot-out heroics to ensure Chelsea's first Super Cup win since 1998.

Penalties were required after Gerard Moreno cancelled out Hakim Ziyech's opener and, in the closing minutes of extra-time, Thomas Tuchel sent on Kepa at Windsor Park.

The Spanish goalkeeper stepped up to the plate, denying both Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol, to secure a 6-5 shoot-out victory and Chelsea's second Super Cup success at the fifth time of asking.

While Tuchel hailed his analysts and backroom staff for the decision based on statistics after the game, the two goalkeepers rejoiced together when speaking to BT Sport.

"It's not a typical situation but we arrived to penalties after Edouard did a fantastic job," Kepa said. "Finally we won and we are so happy.

"I was ready because I knew this could happen. I tried to be ready mentally and physically."

Kepa, who had been pre-warned that this could be the case should the final go to penalties, is simply statistically better at saving penalties according to Tuchel, hence why the decision was made.

Mendy's saves against Boulaye Dia and Gerard Moreno kept Chelsea in front and, despite conceding later on and being removed with minutes to go, he also echoed similar sentiments stood alongside his fellow goalkeeper.

"I'm happy because we won," the former Rennes man added. "I knew since last year that if Kepa came on the pitch he would help the team.

"It's a team effort. We play for Chelsea and for success. We did this today together."

While the pair enjoyed the collective effort that secured the win, it was not all positive news for Chelsea, who lost Hakim Ziyech to a shoulder injury in the first half.

The Moroccan playmaker returned to the stands before the second half with his arm in a sling and Chelsea now await an update as they prepare for their Premier League opener against Crystal Palace on August 14.

Kepa Arrizabalaga was the hero as Chelsea secured their first Super Cup triumph since 1998, running out 6-5 winners in a penalty shoot-out against Villarreal following a 1-1 draw in Belfast.

Hakim Ziyech opened the scoring after good work down the left flank from Kai Havertz before the former Ajax man's shoulder injury marred an entertaining first half.

Alberto Moreno and Gerard Moreno both hit the woodwork either side of half-time, though the latter restored parity with a fine finish to send the final to extra time.

Kepa, who was brought on in the closing minutes solely for penalties, denied both Aissa Mandi and Raul Albiol to make sure Chelsea came out on top.

The Champions League holders had started proceedings impressively too, Timo Werner forcing the first save as Sergio Asenjo had to react quickly to parry away a close-range effort from Havertz's inswinging corner.

Asenjo, though, was no match for Ziyech's sweeping finish after Havertz found space on the left and drilled towards his team-mate near the penalty spot.

Ziyech's injury, suffered while defending a set-piece situation, offered Thomas Tuchel a reason to be concerned, with Alberto Moreno then smashing an effort onto the crossbar.

Gerard Moreno was also denied in similar circumstances after the break, capitalising on Edouard Mendy's wayward clearance before seeing his low strike smack the post.

However, the Villarreal forward quickly made amends, exchanging a one-two with Boulaye Dia before lifting over Mendy for his 23rd goal of 2021, ranking him fifth across Europe's top-five leagues.

Both Christian Pulisic and Mason Mount could not find extra-time winners and, with a shoot-out in sight, Tuchel sent on Kepa.

Opposite number Asenjo drew first blood with a stop against Havertz, but that advantage faded away when Kepa saved for the first time.

With no further misses between the other eight takers, sudden death kicks were necessary. After Antonio Rudiger rolled in his attempt, Kepa guessed the right way to deny Villarreal captain Albiol.

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