Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku is glad to see Cristiano Ronaldo back in the Premier League but will never compare his record to that of the Manchester United forward.

In the same week he completed a shock return to United, Ronaldo made history on Wednesday by becoming the all-time leading goalscorer in men's international football.

Ronaldo scored a couple of late headers to earn his side a 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over the Republic of Ireland and surpass Ali Daei's previous high of 109 goals.

The five-time Ballon d'Or winner's 111 international goals have come from 180 appearances, an average of 0.62 goals per game.

That compares to 0.66 goals per game for Lukaku at international level, the 28-year-old having scored 66 times in 99 outings for Belgium in all competitions.

While Lukaku still has plenty of time on his side to potentially chase down Ronaldo's ever growing tally, the prolific striker is not interested in individual accolades over team honours.

"I don't have a goals number in mind, all that interests me is to win trophies," he said at a news conference on Saturday previewing Belgium's qualifier against the Czech Republic.

"I will never compare myself to Ronaldo – he is one of the three best players of all time. I am proud to have played against him and it's good for English football he's come back."

Lukaku's latest two-goal haul earned Belgium a 5-2 comeback win over Estonia on Thursday.

He extended his lead at the top of the Red Devils' all-time top scorers list, with Eden Hazard and Bernard Voorhoof second and third with 32 and 30 goals respectively.

Forty-nine of Lukaku's international goals have come in his last 47 appearances, with 2014 being his most prolific calendar year as he netted 14 times in 14 caps.

Chelsea lodged three bids before Romelu Lukaku realised their interest in him was serious, but he did not want to disrespect Inter after they rescued him from Manchester United.

Lukaku returned to Chelsea for a reported £97.5million (€115m) last month, departing Inter after two seasons in Serie A, having led the Nerazzurri to the title last season.

The former United forward excelled in Italy after a difficult two-year spell at Old Trafford, regaining the form that saw the Red Devils pay a reported £75m to sign him from Everton.

Lukaku scored on his second Chelsea debut, helping Thomas Tuchel's team to a 2-0 win at Arsenal.

Reflecting on his move while on international duty with Belgium, Lukaku revealed he was swayed by how much the Champions League holders pushed to sign him.

However, he was grateful to Inter, and adamant he would not take an unfair route in order to secure a move back to west London.

"I didn't want to go behind Inter's back," Lukaku said. "They got me out of the s***. I was in a deep hole at United."

Speaking to VTM Nieuws, Lukaku said: "With Chelsea's third offer, I knew it was serious.

"I only realised that Chelsea were serious when they made their third offer. First, they offered €100m. Then €105m, €105m plus [Marcos] Alonso. Then they offered €110m plus [Davide] Zappacosta, but Inter said no.

"After training I went to [coach Simone] Inzaghi's office. I didn't want to ruin the atmosphere because I was no longer in Milan in my head. So I asked him: please find an agreement."

Lukaku netted twice in Belgium's 5-2 win over Estonia on Thursday. On Sunday, he will make his 100th appearance for the national team should he feature against the Czech Republic.

"He is a legend of Belgian football, his statistics are fantastic," Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said of Lukaku, who is the country's record scorer with 66 goals.

"When I talk about Romelu, it's always a bit subjective. I've been lucky enough to see Romelu grow as a player and he's developed superbly.

"Tomorrow he will play his 100th international match and I think that should be a big party. Sometimes we take for granted what we have. But players like Romelu are rare, they should be enjoyed."

Romelu Lukaku's double helped Belgium recover from an early setback in Tallinn as they saw off Estonia 5-2 to retain top spot in their World Cup qualifying group.

The Red Devils fell behind for the third time in four Group E matches when Mattias Kait fired the hosts – ranked 110 in the world – into a shock lead inside two minutes at A. Le Coq Arena.

But Belgium, in action for the first time since their Euro 2020 quarter-final loss to Italy, replied before the half-hour mark through a Hans Vanaken header and Lukaku's clinical finish.

Lukaku doubled his tally early in the second half and further goals followed from Axel Witsel and substitute Thomas Foket as Roberto Martinez's side made it three wins and a draw from their first four qualifying fixtures, despite Erik Sorga netting a late consolation for Estonia.

Estonia had won their previous three matches and found themselves ahead early on when Kait turned over possession, carried the ball forward and rifled a shot away from Thibaut Courtois.

Belgium soon found their rhythm and were on level terms 20 minutes later thanks to Vanaken, who added to the two goals scored in the 8-0 win over Belarus last time out in qualifying with a headed equaliser from five yards out.

Lukaku then profited from some poor home defending to fire Martinez's men in front, the prolific striker picking his spot after Karol Mets' clearance hit team-mate Vladislav Kreida and fell into his path.

Alexis Saelemaekers went close to extending Belgium's lead with a shot that crashed back off the frame of the goal, but they did not have to wait much longer for their third as Lukaku worked a yard of space and curled the ball past Karl Hein.

Witsel tapped in from close range following some excellent work from Yannick Carrasco, who also played a superb pass over the top for Foket – introduced from the bench 10 minutes earlier – to ghost in behind for Belgium's fifth.

Another substitute in Sorga pulled one back for Estonia seven minutes from time, but Belgium were already home and dry by that point.

The transfer window does not close. It slams shut, and on Tuesday, it slammed shut with a flurry of late activity.

LaLiga champions Atletico Madrid were heavily involved, with Antoine Griezmann re-joining the club on loan from Barcelona while Saul Niguez left for Chelsea.

It marked the end of a difficult window for Barca, who of course lost Lionel Messi to Paris Saint-Germain, who rounded off a stellar three months by not only keeping Kylian Mbappe, but also adding promising left-back Nuno Mendes.

Earlier in the day, Cristiano Ronaldo's sensational return to Manchester United had been confirmed, perhaps putting the Red Devils right in the mix for the Premier League title, while Chelsea - buoyed by Romelu Lukaku's comeback - cannot be ignored.

Here, Stats Perform looks at the winners, and losers, of what has been a chaotic transfer window.

 

THE WINNERS

Paris Saint-Germain

Let's start with the obvious. Achraf Hakimi, Mendes, Sergio Ramos, Gianluigi Donnarumma, Georgino Wijnaldum and, of course Messi. Oh, and PSG kept hold of Mbappe, too, rebuffing three bids - the final one reportedly worth €200m - from Real Madrid for the 22-year-old superstar who is out of contract next year. Speaking of out of contract players, Ramos, Donnarumma, Wijnaldum and Messi were all brought in for combined fees of €0, although their wages are sure to be astronomical even by PSG's standards. In Mbappe, Neymar and Messi, PSG have, on paper, what could be the most feared attacking trident of the modern era, not to mention Angel Di Maria in reserve. Mauricio Pochettino's side look suspect defensively but have Ramos to come in, while Donnarumma will compete with Keylor Navas. If they do not win the Champions League this season, will they ever manage it?

Manchester United

It remains to be seen whether United really needed to go out and buy Ronaldo, but the temptation – and reportedly, the requirement to get one over on noisy neighbours Manchester City – was just too much. However, there is no doubting Ronaldo brings a focal point you could argue was still missing from the Red Devils' attack, though with so much quality at his disposal the pressure will be on Ole Gunnar Solskjer to deliver a trophy. United spent big on Jadon Sancho and also brought in a world class defender in Raphael Varane. A title tilt might not be expected just yet, but silverware in some form must be the goal now. After fan protests during the botched Super League proposals earlier this year, the Glazer family seem to have gone all out to prove they want success.

Chelsea

When it comes to Premier League title contenders, Chelsea have surely put themselves well in the running. The European Champions have brought in two major additions in the form of Lukaku and Saul, both players with a wealth of experience at the highest level, and both on the back of title-winning campaigns last season. The Blues did sell Tammy Abraham, Olivier Giroud and Kurt Zouma, among others, but the strength in depth Thomas Tuchel has to play with is remarkable. A deadline day move for Sevilla's Jules Kounde did not materialise, but Saul adds another fantastic option in midfield to go alongside N'Golo Kante, Mateo Kovacic and the in-form Jorginho.

Tottenham

For a long while, it looked as though Tottenham would be one of the big losers from this window. A prolonged managerial search eventually resulted in Nuno Espirito Santo's appointment, but the main saga was over Harry Kane's future. City reportedly made one bid, during Euro 2020, which was dismissed out of hand. The champions never did return with an improved offer, despite huge speculation, and Kane ultimately stayed put. Older players such as Joe Hart, Toby Alderweireld, Erik Lamela and Moussa Sissoko were moved out, while Bryan Gil, Pierluigi Gollini, Cristian Romero and Emerson Royal – a deadline day arrival from Barca – arrived to fill the gaps. Serge Aurier's contract was terminated, while three wins from three means Spurs sat top of the league heading into the international break.

Atletico Madrid

While Saul was a deadline day exit, Atleti have given themselves a great chance of retaining their LaLiga title. With rivals Madrid failing to land Mbappe, as well as losing two of their stalwarts, and Barca seemingly in disarray, there has never been a better opportunity for Diego Simeone's team to really assert themselves as top dogs in Spain. Griezmann's arrival, on a season-long loan with the option for either club to extend the switch, has bolstered a fearsome attack that already included Luis Suarez, Angel Correa, new signing Matheus Cunha and Joao Felix - though the latter may now find chances to play in his preferred position, nominally off the front man, even harder to come by. Saul was struggling to nail down a regular spot in the first team, but Atleti showed greater desire to keep Kieran Trippier, who stayed despite interest from the Premier League. Rodrigo de Paul also arrived from Udinese.

 

THE LOSERS

Barcelona

The chickens have finally come home to roost at Camp Nou. Years of mismanagement, and the impact of COVID-19, has left the club's finances in a shambolic state. Barca had agreed to a new deal with Messi only to then announce the deal could not be completed due to "financial and structural obstacles". Barca ended the window by selling promising youngster Ilaix Moriba to RB Leipzig and shipping off Emerson to Spurs. Then, late on Tuesday, Griezmann, who cost Barca €120m in 2019, was sent back to Atleti. Luuk de Jong, a target man Ronald Koeman worked with during his stint as the Netherlands' coach, was drafted in from Sevilla as a replacement. Memphis Depay seems ready to step up after his arrival from Lyon, while Eric Garcia and Sergio Aguero also came in on free transfers, though Gerard Pique, Sergi Roberto, Jordi Alba and Sergio Busquets were among the players who took pay cuts in order for Barca to register their latest acquisitions.

Inter

Serie A champions Inter were dealt a blow when, just after ending their 11-year trophy drought, coach Antonio Conte left the club. Financial difficulties meant the Nerrazurri had to cash in on prized assets, and Hakimi and subsequently Lukaku followed Conte out of the door. Lautaro Martinez did stay, however, with Inter reinvesting some of the funds to sign Netherlands right-back Denzel Dumfries, Roma striker Edin Dzeko and Lazio forward Juan Correa. Hakan Calhanoglu, meanwhile, joined from rivals Milan on loan, though it is difficult to see that being enough for Inter to challenge on all fronts this season.

 

Juventus

While Inter were weakened, it has to be said that Juventus – surely their closest rivals in the Scudetto hunt – also had a disappointing window. Like many European clubs, they have been hit hard by COVID-19, though appeared well set to challenge again after reappointing Massimiliano Allegri. However, Ronaldo decided he wanted out late in the window, and Juve did not stand in his way. An initial fee of £12.86m (€15m), payable over five years, was agreed with United, and Ronaldo left just like that. Moise Kean returned from Everton on a two-year loan with an obligation to buy as a replacement, while Manuel Locatelli was their other major acquisition and Weston McKennie's move from Schalke was made permanent. Based on the performance in Sunday's defeat to Empoli, however, Juve are far from the force they were during Allegri's last spell in charge.

Real Madrid

For a time last week, it really did look as though Madrid were going to end the window in sensational fashion. Three bids were lodged for Mbappe, but PSG did not buckle. Madrid did move for another French youngster – Edouardo Camavinga, who joined from Rennes on Tuesday – but overall it must be considered a poor window. Los Blancos allowed Ramos to leave on a free and sold long-time defensive partner Varane - just the eight Champions League winners' medals between them. Martin Odegaard was deemed surplus to requirements by Carlo Ancelotti and sold to Arsenal, though no buyers were found for fringe players Luka Jovic or Dani Ceballos. David Alaba's arrival on a free transfer from Bayern Munich at least softened the blow of Ramos' departure, and Mbappe may well be on board in 2022.

Manchester City

City broke the British transfer record to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa, who in turn have made smart acquisitions such as Danny Ings, Leon Bailey and Emiliano Buendia. While another attacking midfielder was more of a luxury than a necessity, City did miss out on Kane and then seemingly saw Ronaldo snatched from under their noses by United, though the club have claimed it is they who pulled out of the deal. Pep Guardiola went into the window wanting an out-and-out number nine following Aguero's departure, but for now the Premier League champions will have to carry on with makeshift forwards, it seems. Not that it did them much harm in 5-0 routs of Norwich City and Arsenal last month. Meanwhile, wantaway playmaker Bernardo Silva is still at the club, though he will remain a first-team regular.

Liverpool 

Unlike their league rivals, Liverpool never seemed focused on spending big. The Reds instead turned their attention to tying down the futures of key players, with Jordan Henderson, Virgil van Dijk, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Alisson, Fabinho and Andrew Robertson signing new deals. Ibrahima Konate came in from RB Leipzig to boost the defence – a clear area of weakness last season during an injury crisis – though Jurgen Klopp's squad does seem weaker. They have started the season well, but it remains to be seen how they cope without Wijnaldum and even Xherdan Shaqiri should injuries trouble them again.

The transfer window officially closed on Tuesday, meaning clubs across Europe must now make do with the players available to them until at least January.

It has been an eventful few months, with Lionel Messi ending his 21-year association with Barcelona by joining Paris Saint-Germain and Cristiano Ronaldo sealing an emotional return to Manchester United from Juventus.

The drama continued to unfold right through until the final stages of the window as Antoine Griezmann rejoined Atletico Madrid on an initial loan and Chelsea snapped up Saul Niguez from the Spanish champions, while Real Madrid brought in rising star Eduardo Camavinga from Rennes.

With Kylian Mbappe staying at PSG and Harry Kane still a Tottenham player, Jack Grealish's £100million switch to Manchester City from Aston Villa was the biggest deal in monetary terms, followed by Romelu Lukaku's £97.5m (€115m) move to Chelsea from Inter.

Stats Perform takes a look at the best deals that went through.

Hakan Calhanoglu: Inter to Milan (free transfer)

After failing to agree new terms at Milan, Calhanoglu completed a shock move across the city to rivals Inter, signing a three-year deal.

While not necessarily the most popular transfer, getting a player who created 98 chances last season – the most of any player in Europe's top five leagues – for free is quite something.

The Turkey international got a goal and an assist on his debut in the 4-0 win over Genoa, prompting coach Simone Inzaghi to proclaim the player "doesn't realise how good he is".

Manuel Locatelli: Sassuolo to Juventus (loan with €25m obligation)

One of Italy's most prized young assets, Locatelli secured a move to Juventus on a two-year loan that includes an obligation to buy for an initial €25m.

Among midfielders in Serie A last season, the 23-year-old made the most touches (3,304), passes (2,749) and tackles (81). He then impressed as Italy won Euro 2020, scoring twice in the group-stage win over Switzerland.

For a club looking to strengthen while saving money, this could prove a shrewd deal for Juve.

 

Danny Ings: Southampton to Aston Villa (£25m)

Villa appear to have invested the money they received for Grealish in shrewd fashion, signing Leon Bailey, Emiliano Buendia and striker Ings.

While the Ings deal materialised very quickly in early August, he certainly did not seem to need much time to adjust to new surroundings, scoring twice in his first three league games this season.

With 34 goals across his final two league campaigns with Southampton, there is reason to think the 29-year-old could be one of the smartest signings of the window.

Lionel Messi: Free agent to Paris Saint-Germain

The most spectacular free transfer of all time came after Barcelona had agree a new contract with Messi only to be forced to admit they could not let him sign it due to financial restrictions.

A tearful Messi bade farewell to his boyhood club before securing a move to PSG, who now boast a frankly terrifying forward line of Messi, Neymar and Mbappe.

Describing it as a 'free' transfer is somewhat misleading given the various costs involved in the different aspects of the deal, but for PSG to sign arguably the greatest player in history without paying a transfer fee is pretty amazing business.

 

Romelu Lukaku: Inter to Chelsea (£97.5m)

Chelsea smashed their transfer record to bring back Lukaku, whose last action in his first spell at the club was to miss a penalty in the UEFA Super Cup shoot-out loss to Bayern Munich in 2013.

Lukaku plundered 24 goals and 11 assists in 2020-21 to fire Inter to the title and claim Serie A's MVP award, after which he pushed for a return to Stamford Bridge, where he felt he had unfinished business.

It might have been a serious financial outlay, but Lukaku showed in the 2-0 win at Arsenal what a difference he could make to a Chelsea side who are extremely tough to beat but not exactly free-scoring.

Eduardo Camavinga: Rennes to Real Madrid (€30m)

Madrid may have missed out on top target Mbappe, but they managed to get a deal over the line for fellow Frenchman Camavinga, bringing an end to 18 months of speculation surrounding the young midfielder.

It is the first time Madrid have spent money on a transfer fee since 2019, when they signed Eden Hazard from Chelsea for €100m, and in Camavinga they are signing a player for the here and now rather than the future.

Since making his debut for Rennes in April 2019, no player in Ligue 1 has attempted (230) or won more tackles (139) than the three-cap France international, who will now provide competition for Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric and Federico Valverde.

 

Saul Niguez: Atletico Madrid to Chelsea (loan with option to buy for £30m)

After being regularly linked with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool in recent years, Saul will finally get a chance to play in the Premier League with Chelsea this season.

A box-to-box midfielder, the Spain international is at his best operating in a central role, though his versatility and workrate have often seen him deployed out wide by Atletico coach Diego Simeone.

He made just 22 league starts last season, his lowest figure since 2014-15. However, since August 2019, Real Madrid's Casemiro (190) is the only midfielder to have attempted more tackles than Saul (159) in LaLiga.

Antoine Griezmann: Barcelona to Atletico Madrid (loan deal with an obligation to buy)

Two years after leaving Atletico in a big-money transfer, Griezmann has returned to the Spanish capital to boost an attack that already includes Luis Suarez, Joao Felix, Angel Correa and fellow new recruit Matheus Cunha.

Griezmann's Camp Nou career never truly took off and he failed to score or create a single opportunity across Barca's first three league games this season.

But Simeone will be confident he can get the Frenchman, who scored 94 LaLiga goals in 180 appearances in his first stint at the club, operating at somewhere close to his former glory.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo: Juventus to Manchester United (£12.9m rising to £19.7m)

Twelve years after departing Old Trafford, Ronaldo is once again a Manchester United player after completing a surprise return to the club where he won the first of his five Ballons d'Or.

Ronaldo scored 118 goals in 292 appearances under Alex Ferguson in his first spell, 42 of those goals coming in the 2007-08 season alone, and he remains a prolific forward despite his all-round game changing with time.

The Portugal captain scored 29 league goals in his third and final season with Juventus to win the Capocannoniere, making him the first player to finish as top scorer in Serie A, LaLiga and the Premier League.

Cristiano Ronaldo will be playing back at Old Trafford in 2021-22 after Manchester United confirmed his signing from Juventus.

The Portugal great has returned in a deal worth up to €23million (£19.7m), which was sensationally agreed with Juve on Friday.

For a short while, it looked as though Ronaldo – who had asked to leave the Bianconeri – was heading to Manchester City after they missed out on the signing of Harry Kane.

Instead, he is heading back to the red side of Manchester.

With the deal now finalised, Stats Perform takes a look at other greats who went back to their former homes, starting with the Portugal captain...

Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United

Ronaldo spent six years at Old Trafford during his previous spell, arriving as a lanky teenager who loved a stepover and leaving as a Ballon d'Or winner and ice-cold finisher. His then-world-record move to Real Madrid had been a long time coming and he spent nine years at the Santiago Bernabeu, becoming the club's all-time top scorer as he continued his transition from winger to out-and-out 'number nine'. There he won four Champions League titles before moving on to Juve, for whom he plundered 81 goals in 98 Serie A matches and picked up two Scudetti. But now he is returning to England. Whether he can match the standards he set last time remains to be seen, with his 31-goal haul of 2007-08 only bettered once in a 38-match season, but United fans will be convinced he can fire them to a first league title since Ferguson left.

Juan Roman Riquelme – Boca Juniors

Synonymous with Boca Juniors, Riquelme made his professional debut for the Buenos Aires giants and returned to the club for the majority of his final years as a player, following spells with Barcelona and Villarreal. After a breakdown in his relationship with Manuel Pellegrini, Riquelme – the classic number 10 – returned to Boca initially on loan in 2007, going on to stay until 2014. He helped Boca win the Copa Libertadores in 2007, the Recopa Sudamericana a year later, Apertura titles in 2008 and 2011 and the Copa Argentina in 2011-12. He is currently Boca's vice-president.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Milan

After a difficult spell under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, Ibrahimovic – who had excelled at both Juventus and Inter – moved back to Italy, joining the Nerrazurri's city rivals Milan on loan for 2010-11. He became an instant star for the Rossoneri, picking up where he left off in Italy with 21 goals, a tally he bettered in 2011-12, scoring 35 times in all competitions. Paris Saint-Germain came calling and he went on to become the Ligue 1 giants' record goalscorer (a title now held by Edinson Cavani), before joining Manchester United and LA Galaxy. Despite being in his late 30s, Ibrahimovic still had more to offer and rejoined Milan for the back half of the 2019-20 campaign, netting 11 goals. He carried on his form into an injury hit 2020-21, scoring a further 16 times, and he is set to be a pivotal figure at San Siro once again this season.

Romelu Lukaku – Chelsea

Part of United's reasoning behind signing Ronaldo was to perhaps ensure they kept pace with their title rivals. For the past two seasons, Ronaldo has gone head-to-head with Lukaku in Serie A. Though Ronaldo won the battle last season, scoring 29 league goals, compared to Lukaku's 24, it was the Belgian who won the war by leading Inter to the title, and now the duo will face off again in the Premier League after Chelsea smashed their transfer record to re-sign the 28-year-old 10 years on from his initial arrival from Anderlecht. Lukaku did not manage to push himself into the starting XI back then and was loaned out to West Brom and Everton, before moving to Goodison Park on a permanent deal in 2014. He returns to Stamford Bridge as the complete package, however, and bullied Arsenal's defence on his second debut, scoring the opener in a 2-0 win for the European champions.

Didier Drogba – Chelsea

Part of the allure for Lukaku returning to Chelsea was to emulate his icon Drogba, who left Stamford Bridge after helping the Blues clinch a Champions League crown in 2012. The Ivorian went back to west London in the 2014-15 season, with Drogba explaining he could not turn down the chance to work with Jose Mourinho once again. He scored four league goals in 28 appearances to help Chelsea win the title, before heading off for a swansong in MLS with the Montreal Impact.

Thierry Henry – Arsenal

Another Premier League great, Henry rejoined Arsenal on a short-term loan deal at the start of 2012. He scored on his second debut against Leeds United in the FA Cup, converting his only attempt of the game in a 22-minute cameo from the bench. He went on to play a further six times, scoring in the Premier League against Sunderland, before he returned to the New York Red Bulls to round off a wonderful career.

Carlos Tevez – Boca Juniors

The Tevez-Boca love affair has dominated most of the striker's complex career. After coming through their youth ranks, the feisty forward was seen as the heir to Maradona. A brief stint in Brazil with Corinthians followed, but Europe had long since beckoned, even if West Ham were by no means the expected destination. He went on to play for Man United and City, increasing tension between the clubs, before then going to Juventus, but throughout this time Tevez seemed to long for a return to Boca. He went back to La Bombonera in 2015, his homecoming interrupted by a brief spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 in the Chinese Super League, though even Tevez acknowledged he saw his time in China as a "holiday". "He filled Santa's sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca," was Maradona's assessment upon the forward's return from the CSL. His third spell with Boca ended in June 2021 and it remains to be seen if he ever plays for another club.

Wayne Rooney – Everton

With Lukaku joining Man United in 2017, it opened the door for Everton to bring back Rooney, who had left his boyhood club in 2004 on the back of a stellar performance at Euro 2004. Then just 18, Rooney went on to become United's record goalscorer – and England's, too – and he returned to Goodison Park for the 2017-18 season. He scored on his league debut, heading in the winner against Stoke City, and though he netted 11 times in total for the Toffees, a difficult season saw Ronald Koeman sacked and replaced with Sam Allardyce, who was subsequently shuffled out of the door for Marco Silva. With Everton looking to go in a new direction, Rooney left to join MLS side DC United in 2018.

Gianluigi Buffon – Parma

Buffon likes a comeback. Having returned for a second spell at Juventus in 2019, the goalkeeping great departed the club for a second time at the end of 2020-21. The Italy legend had not finished playing yet, though, and Parma quickly emerged as a potential destination despite their relegation to Serie B. After a few weeks of contemplation, it was confirmed that Buffon was heading back to the club where he made his name. Now 43, the iconic stopper is wearing Gialloblu for the first time in 20 years, and he is set to remain with them until he turns 45, given he signed a two-year contract. What happens after that is anyone's guess, but calling it a day with his first club could be a satisfyingly romantic conclusion to a remarkable career – that or he ends up at Juve again!

He is back where he belongs.
He is back home. #SupermanReturns @gianluigibuffon @Kyle_J_Krause @ParmaCalcio_en pic.twitter.com/bh2FO6P8YX

— Parma Calcio 1913 (@1913parmacalcio) June 17, 2021

A common perception in 2020-21 was that Liverpool's struggles at home were partly down to playing in an empty Anfield, with their raucous support not there to get the Reds over the line.

How important that actually was is difficult – or maybe even impossible – to quantify, though Liverpool did endure a club-record run of six successive league defeats last term.

But Anfield was full on Saturday and rocking for their first 'big' match of the season with Chelsea on Merseyside, and once again Liverpool looked a shadow of the inventive side that won the 2019-20 Premier League season so impressively.

They were even given the boost of seeing Reece James sent off, yet Jurgen Klopp's side failed to make the most of that advantage in their 1-1 draw.

So much of the build-up centred around arguably the most anticipated duel since Anakin Skywalker v Obi-Wan Kenobi, as Romelu Lukaku – fresh from bullying Arsenal last week – went up against Virgil van Dijk.

Of course, the Dutchman missed most of last season with a knee injury and endured a pretty tough second match back last time out against Burnley.

His 41.7 per cent success in aerial duels was way down on his league average of 74.3 per cent since the start of 2018-19, highlighting just how "intense" – as Klopp put it – Burnley were.

While few would've expected a similarly direct approach from Chelsea, Lukaku's second Blues debut last week really increased the anticipation for his contest with Van Dijk.

Lukaku was certainly involved in a gruelling opening 45 minutes, his first proper duel with Van Dijk coming in the 18th minute as he rather easily shrugged the defender off out on the right before seeing a cross dealt with.

The Belgian was brutal with his desire to get into the danger zone last week and he showed similarly impressive movement just before the half-hour mark – but first N'Golo Kante failed to spot his run and then Kai Havertz did as well when a first-time pass would've set Lukaku through on goal.

Havertz had just given Chelsea the lead with a header Lukaku would've been proud of, otherwise he would likely have got an earful from his team-mate.

Lukaku's excellence then should've made it 2-0 10 minutes before the break, as he brilliantly rolled Joel Matip and fed Mason Mount, only for the England star to shoot wide of the bottom-left corner.

Van Dijk's anticipation when predicting Lukaku would try to let the ball run past him in the 43rd minute drew the biggest cheer of the day from Liverpool fans up to that point, and just a few moments later the game was turned on its head, rendering their personal duel almost irrelevant.

James handled on the line and, after a VAR check, was shown a red card. While the dismissal may have seemed harsh, it was ultimately inevitable with the wing-back denying a goalscoring opportunity, and Mohamed Salah converted the penalty.

The incident forced Thomas Tuchel into a significant re-think.

When Chelsea came out for the second half, their setup had changed dramatically. Having looked effective in the first half with a low defensive block, a very high front three occupying Liverpool's backline and an energetic midfield ensuring the gap wasn't too much of an issue, after the break their forwards simply couldn't continue in the same vein.

That, therefore, took away a key component of Tuchel's system. The 8.9 opposition passes allowed outside of Chelsea's own defensive third before a defensive action (PPDA) was second only to Leeds United (8.2) in this fledgling season before Saturday, indicating a high level of pressing.

Unable to maintain this with 10 men, Van Dijk and Matip were far more relaxed.

This translated to 77.1 per cent possession for the Reds in the 15 minutes that followed half-time, yet for their dominance of the ball, Liverpool's opportunities were hardly clear-cut.

Before a late onslaught in the final six minutes, only one of Liverpool's 10 second-half shots had an xG (expected goals) value over 0.1 – that was a Sadio Mane effort in the 56th minute, it's 0.105 xG value essentially equating to a scoring likelihood of just over 10 per cent. Not exactly nailed-on.

In the end, Liverpool's predictability in attack gave Chelsea the upper hand. The Reds constantly looked to the flanks, with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson playing five and four key passes respectively.

Salah (three) was the only other Liverpool player to play more than one, and again he was most prominent out wide rather than inside.

Chelsea, with their packed defence, rarely looked particularly worried and were ultimately good value for the point.

This was a wonderful opportunity for Liverpool to make a "statement" against a likely title contender, but Klopp's men lacked the imagination to overpower Chelsea's resilience.

Thomas Tuchel is relishing the battle between Romelu Lukaku and Virgil van Dijk when Chelsea travel to Liverpool on Saturday.

Both sides have made perfect starts to the Premier League season with two wins from two, scoring five goals without reply.

Lukaku, who rejoined Chelsea in a club-record deal this month, marked his second debut with a goal in last weekend's win over Arsenal.

The Belgium international is set to line up against Liverpool's defensive anchor Van Dijk in what promises to be an intriguing duel at Anfield.

Blues head coach Tuchel is confident the striker will rise to the occasion when he comes up against the Dutchman, whose return from injury he feels has provided the Reds with a huge boost since Chelsea's 1-0 win when the sides met in March.

"I am looking forward to it; I think many fans of football are looking forward to that battle," he said.

"For Romelu, it is a big challenge. He had a very good start, so now we are into details, connecting better and better. 

"The stress is on tomorrow at Anfield, but we knew we were getting a big and experienced player. He loves these kinds of matches.

"Liverpool with Van Dijk is different. It is not only his isolated capacity and ability; he also makes everybody around him feel more comfortable and stronger. They have a huge upgrade from last March."

Tuchel also praised counterpart Jurgen Klopp and the former Paris Saint-Germain boss is anticipating a special atmosphere on Merseyside.

"He has my full respect; he is one of the best managers in the world," the Blues boss added.

"He has the ability to make huge footprints and impact at any club. We need to be careful when he talks too good about you!

"We're super happy that the fans are back. We have to cope with energy that Anfield can create.

"The challenge is on and we're excited to be in the middle of it."

Virgil van Dijk versus Romelu Lukaku reminds us of the irresistible force paradox: the immovable object in Liverpool's defence meeting the unstoppable might of Chelsea's centre forward.

It makes Saturday's clash at Anfield an unmissable prospect for fans of conflict between tall men from the Low Lands.

Van Dijk was sorely missed as he sat out almost all of Liverpool's title defence season last term, when a series of shattering injury blows to the Reds backline left Jurgen Klopp severely hamstrung.

The Dutch powerhouse has recovered from knee surgery and is back at the heart of manager Klopp's defence, striving for full match fitness, while Lukaku has returned to the Premier League after two years at Inter.

Their much-anticipated tussle this weekend could tell us a lot about the Premier League title prospects of Liverpool and Chelsea this term.


Is Van Dijk physically ready?

Lukaku seized on weakness in the Arsenal defence last weekend to get off the goalscoring mark in his Chelsea career, a decade on from making his debut in a short-lived first spell at Stamford Bridge.

He hit the crossbar with a header too, as the Gunners failed to contain his threat, the Belgian's intelligent movement and physical prowess proving more than Arsenal could contain. He had eight goal attempts, a single-match total that has only been beaten six times in the two years and two weeks between his move to Inter and his Premier League comeback.

It adds up to trouble for Liverpool if Van Dijk is short of his best, and if facing Burnley last week in his second Premier League game was a gauge of where he is at, then there might be questions to ask.

Van Dijk was involved in 12 aerial duels and won just five of those, or 41.7 per cent. That is way down on his league average of 74.3 per cent since the beginning of the 2018-19 season, his first full campaign at Liverpool, Van Dijk winning 393 of 529 such battles in the air.

His passing accuracy of 80.77 per cent was also significantly below par, with Van Dijk only ever having dipped below that 11 times in the league since joining Liverpool in the January 2018 transfer window. Curiously it had happened twice previously against Burnley, perhaps pointing to a certain discomfort when facing the Clarets.


How has United misfit become a hotshot?

Lukaku scored 16 Premier League goals for Manchester United in 2017-18 from an expected goals (xG) tally of 13.43, and 12 from an xG of 10.67 in the following season. He then took his trade to Italy and netted 23 times in Serie A from an xG of 18.85 in 2019-20 before striking 24 times (xG 23.75) in Inter's Scudetto-winning 2020-21 campaign.

His shot conversion rate has climbed incrementally from 18.5 per cent in 2017-18 to 25 per cent last season, and he is a player whose confidence is soaring.

A big chance conversion rate of 39.29 per cent across all competitions in his final season at United was Lukaku's worst since the 2012-13 campaign (37.5 per cent). By improving to 46.51 per cent and then 51.02 per cent in his two years at Inter he was not tucking away those big chances – defined by Opta as situations 'where a player should reasonably be expected to score' – at an outlandish rate, but those are healthy enough numbers.

To take the example of his final season at Everton, the 2016-17 campaign, Lukaku had a big chance conversion rate of 73.08 per cent. That is his capability, which few can hope to match.

Lukaku certainly believes he has returned to England an improved player, and his 11 assists in Serie A last season reflect well in that aspect. In 2018-19 at United, he had no assists, although in the previous campaign he managed seven.


Dribble trouble for Van Dijk?

Lukaku has found his dribbling boots again too, and that has to be bad news for Premier League defences. In his three dazzling seasons at Everton, Lukaku chalked up 105, 87 and 104 attempted dribbles while on Premier League duty, but his totals fell away to 63 and then 41 while at United. Stymied either by the role he was being asked to play, or by his waning spirits, an important part of Lukaku's game went AWOL.

He attempted just 45 dribbles in his first Serie A campaign too, but that shot up to 103 in 2020-21, and the sight of an eager Lukaku with the ball at his feet is a worry for any defender, even one Van Dijk's pedigree.

Famously, Van Dijk is rarely dribbled past by opponents. Since his Liverpool debut in January 2018, he has only been beaten in such a way eight times in the Premier League, the fewest of all defenders with at least 50 games behind them over that time.


Still the full package?

"The package of Virgil van Dijk is really helpful," said Klopp after Liverpool battled to their 2-0 win over Burnley.

Unmistakably true, and the centre-back belongs to the calibre of player that can raise their game to another level when presented with a major challenge. It is why Liverpool spent £75million to bring him in from Southampton. When many thought they were paying over the odds, Liverpool were certain he would take them up a level, and duly he has.

The character and presence of the 2019 Ballon d'Or runner-up can influence those around him, even when the data suggests he is performing, act for act, below his peak levels.

There is no doubt Van Dijk will relish the challenge presented by Lukaku, despite having played on a losing team against Chelsea's new number nine before, notably when United edged Liverpool 2-1 at Old Trafford in March 2018, as Marcus Rashford's double made the difference.

Saturday's tussle is one between elite-tier Premier League stars, and immovable versus unstoppable is an absurdity that adds up to stalemate.

That may be how Lukaku versus Van Dijk plays out, the match won or lost elsewhere while they scrap out their own spectacular sideshow, two colossi on whom so much will depend over the next nine months.

Thomas Tuchel was delighted with Romelu Lukaku's second Chelsea debut, but tempered praise, insisting it is "not the time for too much celebration".

Lukaku scored the opening goal in Chelsea's 2-0 win at Arsenal on Sunday, with Reece James grabbing the second.

The Gunners had won their past three games against Chelsea in all competitions, but were outclassed as £97.5million signing Lukaku had an instant impact.

He had eight attempts and created a further three chances, having only previously been involved in more than 11 shots in a single match in Europe's top five leagues (13 for Everton v West Ham, 2015).

Lukaku continued his outstanding Inter form, with 13 goals and eight assists in his past 19 league games, and appeared to solve Chelsea's biggest problem after a wasteful 2020-21 campaign.

But Tuchel, despite talking up the forward's role, was not getting carried away with just two matches of the Premier League season played.

"I certainly think that nobody likes to play against him," the Chelsea coach told a news conference.

"Everyone is aware of his physicality but also of his strengths in link-up play and his strengths to attack the space, so he gives a dimension, another dimension to our game.

"But now it is our job also not to lose our strengths, lose the work rate, the team effort, the intensity against the ball, so we have to bring everything together.

"It's not only about the qualities and the skills from Romelu, it's the package that made it so promising for us.

"It's the age, it's the experience, it's that he's a Chelsea fan and was always a Chelsea fan and his dream was to make it at this club. So, this is what we feel from day one from him. 

"He has this personality and he grew in his personality in his clubs where he played; he played for big clubs, he scored for big clubs. And he has this genuine trust in himself.

"Like I said, I hope that it takes pressure off our young guys' shoulders.

"Now it's his first game played and we have a lot more to do and it has only just begun. So, it's not the time now for too much praise and it's not the time for too much celebration. We need to keep on going in the start of the season."

Lukaku is Chelsea's only high-profile signing so far in this transfer window, but Tuchel suggested he was not looking for further additions, keen to protect the "strong bond" and "great team spirit".

"I'm absolutely happy with our squad and the alternatives we have," he said.

"It's not too big a squad, like we were missing Christian Pulisic today and that meant that everybody else was straight in the squad, in the 18-player squad plus the goalkeepers.

"That means we have not the biggest squad, but we have a very, very competitive squad in all positions, which is I think on one hand necessary because we play a lot of competitions and have the World Cup coming up in December and we have a pretty unique situation that we played very long and had the Euros and the Copa America.

"So, if we want to compete, we need this kind of level.

"But at the same time, it's also that we believe that we are a strong group, because this was maybe the key in the last half a year, that we played with a strong bond and with a great team spirit.

"This will be the challenge for me and for the team, that we create this atmosphere again and that everybody is ready to take our positions and still keep pushing the team. If we do this, we can achieve more than if we don't."

Romelu Lukaku suggested he can improve further after a "dominant" second Chelsea debut in the 2-0 win at Arsenal.

Lukaku, appearing for the first time since his £97.5million (€115m) move from Inter, opened the scoring at Emirates Stadium, nine years and 360 days on from his first Blues bow.

Reece James, the creator of the first, then thrashed in the second before half-time and Chelsea were in complete control thereafter.

Lukaku could not add to his 15th-minute strike but finished with eight attempts worth a combined 1.41 expected goals – the highest such non-penalty total for a Premier League player in a match this season.

The 28-year-old also contested 15 duels in an outstanding all-round display.

Asked if the day could have gone any better, Lukaku told Sky Sports: "No, no, no. I'm very happy with the win. We played very well, we dominated, we could have scored more.

"To be honest, coming here with this performance, it's good, we have to continue like that."

Describing his own performance, the forward added: "Dominant, I would say. Dominant. I try to improve every time. I have a long way to go.

"But today was good, to win and to start well, and now we have to keep working, keep building, keep getting stronger.

"The Premier League is a very competitive league, but we're ready for the challenge and hopefully we can improve on this."

Lukaku also created three chances for his team-mates and was keen to praise them, too.

"You want to work hard for the team," he said. "You want to win, you want to score, you want to create chances.

"It's something that I've learned, that I've worked on really hard, and I keep working on it.

"This team is very, very talented – they're the European champions but they want to keep building and I want to continue winning. We have to keep fighting, keep working hard and keep delivering performances like this."

Lukaku has transformed his reputation by leading Inter to the Serie A title after leaving Manchester United, but he believes there is more to his game than he was able to show on Sunday.

"I think you saw parts," he explained. "You saw a lot, but not only from me. The team adapted really well.

"I asked a lot of questions to the players and they helped a lot, they made life very comfortable for me.

"So, I wasn't stressed when I came into the game, I was very focused and there was one thing on my mind: just win the game. We did today and I'm very delighted for the club, for the fans, and let's keep building.

"It's good to start like this. I worked hard throughout the week, the team worked hard throughout the week. We knew it was a big, big game for us, everybody was watching us, and we did well.

"As an individual, I try to help the team. I said I want to add something different to the team – hopefully I did – and I was to continue doing that to help the team win. That's the most important thing."

Coach Thomas Tuchel said of his new number nine: "I'm very happy with how he has integrated already. He's a very smart guy. He is a very democratic leader, talks to everybody as a leader and is very humble and competitive.

"He gives something to our game we didn't have as he protects the ball so we can play direct.

"You can't start better than with a goal and almost scored a second but it was a big save from [Bernd] Leno. It's a good start but we have to improve from here.

"I didn't expect too much. I wanted to be open to watch him to see his strengths and capability to adapt and link up with [Kai] Havertz and [Mason] Mount. The guys like to play with each other."

"Dream? I'm not dreaming. One day I'll play here, you'll see."

One cannot have escaped the viral clip shared by former club Anderlecht, as he completed his £97.5million transfer, of Romelu Lukaku visiting Chelsea's Stamford Bridge as a child.

Of course, Lukaku kept that promise in 2011 when he replaced Fernando Torres for the final seven minutes of a 3-1 home win over Norwich City. That was among eight outings at Stamford Bridge in Chelsea blue, but few could blame the forward for feeling a little unfulfilled.

One of the world's best strikers left the club he supported as a boy after 15 games, 466 minutes, 19 shots and zero goals.

There was more to Lukaku's desire to turn out for Chelsea than the badge on the chest, though; he wanted to follow in the footsteps of Didier Drogba, the Blues legend whose shirt he wore in that Anderlecht clip.

That second Stamford Bridge bow is still to come, but Lukaku needed only 15 minutes of his Chelsea return to emulate Drogba.

Of the 164 goals Drogba scored as a Chelsea player, 13 came against Arsenal – four more than he mustered against any other side. There were braces in triumphs in the 2005 Community Shield and 2007 EFL Cup final, as well as a winner in the 2009 FA Cup semi-final, on top of his eight Premier League strikes.

Drogba bullied Arsenal; therefore on Sunday, determined this time to take his chance at Chelsea, so did Lukaku.

Nine years and 360 days after that debut against Norwich, Lukaku made up for lost time with an opener that displayed many of the talents that look set to make Chelsea genuine challengers for the Premier League title.

The 28-year-old was allowed to face the goal at Inter far more often than during an ultimately frustrating spell at Manchester United, carrying the ball 3,040 metres in Serie A last season, but he also continued to link the play, involved in 34 goal-ending open play sequences. He was the beneficiary this time.

Mateo Kovacic fired a pass into Lukaku's feet 30 yards from goal and he held on to the ball just long enough to have four Arsenal players around him by the time he offloaded it back to the former Real Madrid midfielder.

Thomas Tuchel had spoken of how Chelsea wanted a replacement for Olivier Giroud with "the kind of profile who likes to play with his back to goal, who likes to hold up balls, who creates space for Timo Werner, Kai Havertz, Christian Pulisic, who is ready to fight physically with defenders". It was Reece James, rather than Werner, Havertz or Pulisic, who found himself all alone thanks to Lukaku's distraction.

When Kovacic snapped a pass outside to James, the race was on in the middle and there was only going to be one winner. After Arsenal's awful defeat at Brentford, there had been debate about how Ben White would deal with Lukaku's physical presence. With White laid low by COVID-19, it was Pablo Mari who was swatted aside by Lukaku to leave a simple finish.

Arsenal sought to learn their lesson, challenging Lukaku as quickly as possible thereafter, but even that went against them. Granit Xhaka's lunge on Lukaku 10 minutes before half-time saw the ball run instead for Mount, who found James unmarked again to score himself.

As with Drogba, Arsenal never looked comfortable attempting to contain Lukaku, who did not add to his early goal but created three chances, contested 15 duels, won two fouls and counted a 77th-minute header that Bernd Leno instinctively touched onto the crossbar among eight efforts.

The last Chelsea forward to have seven or more shots against Arsenal in a league encounter was, of course, Drogba (in 2006).

Tuchel has spoken at length about how Lukaku's signing can benefit Werner. Up first was a lesson from the sidelines, however, with the much-maligned Germany attacker dropped for the new man and only introduced in the final minute of the 90, providing just a fleeting glimpse of a fearsome front two.

For Arsenal, meanwhile, the scant positives largely came from the same men as last season – Bukayo Saka, Emile Smith Rowe and Kieran Tierney, at least in an attacking sense before his injury – when they stunned Chelsea 3-1 on Boxing Day, having entered the game 15th in the table and winless in seven.

That result inspired a vastly improved run of form, but their progress pales next to Chelsea's under Tuchel. Their signings do not compare to Lukaku either.

"We are trying to bring the players that we can afford, that in this moment can help us to achieve what we want," Mikel Arteta said this week, asked if Arsenal were operating on a "lower level". "Chelsea would have a different plan," he added.

The goal was Lukaku's fourth against Arsenal, but he will back himself to add to that total based on the apparent trajectory of the two teams.

Only two years older than Drogba was when he arrived in England, there is plenty of time to close on his idol's tally in a fixture he dominated.

Romelu Lukaku scored on his second debut for Chelsea to help the Blues to a 2-0 victory over London rivals Arsenal in Sunday's Premier League clash.

The Belgium international rejoined Chelsea for a club-record fee earlier this month and took just 15 minutes to open his account from close range at Emirates Stadium.

Reece James set up that goal and doubled his side's lead before half-time as Thomas Tuchel's men, who also hit the crossbar through a Lukaku header, eased to a second successive win without conceding to begin the campaign.

Arsenal's only real opportunity was squandered by Rob Holding on the hour mark as Mikel Arteta's side remain pointless and goalless after their first two games.

Arsenal had won their last three games against Chelsea in all competitions and started this latest meeting on top, but it was the Blues who took the lead in north London.

Lukaku held up the ball, played in James in behind Kieran Tierney down the right and converted from inside the six-yard box once teed up by his team-mate.

James went from creator to scorer 20 minutes later when again left in plenty of space down the right to thump a shot past Bernd Leno at the end of a flowing move.

Wing-back James was involved in a big incident shortly before half-time when tripping Bukayo Saka, but VAR agreed with referee Paul Tierney's decision not to award a penalty.

Arsenal looked a little more lively early in the second half as Edouard Mendy kept out a deflected Saka drive and Holding sent a free header wide from six yards.

However, it was Chelsea who went closest to adding to the scoring through a Lukaku header from seven yards that Leno did brilliantly to turn against the crossbar.

Record signing Romelu Lukaku returns for his second Chelsea debut against Arsenal at Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Having last appeared for the Blues during the 2013-14 campaign, Thomas Tuchel hands Lukaku his first start since he rejoined the club and leaves Timo Werner on the bench for the Premier League clash.

The Belgium forward, who netted 24 goals in 36 Serie A appearances to fire Inter to the Scudetto last term, will be joined by Mason Mount and Kai Havertz for support up top.

Christian Pulisic misses out due to COVID-19 with Havertz taking his place, while Reece James replaces Trevoh Chalobah, meaning Cesar Azpilicueta moves back to centre-back.

Behind the visitors' three-man defence, Edouard Mendy retains his place - the former Rennes goalkeeper keeping the most clean sheets in the Premier League (10) since Tuchel's appointment in January.

Chelsea are looking for their fifth consecutive away London derby league victory, last achieving such a feat under Jose Mourinho between January 2005 and January 2006.

However, Mikel Arteta's men were victorious in both fixtures last term, though they have not won three in a row in the competition since February 2004.

Arsenal are without Ben White, who misses out through COVID-19, so Rob Holding comes in at centre-back.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who tested positive for coronavirus prior to the defeat to Brentford last weekend, returns and is listed among the substitutes, but Alexandre Lacazette and Willian are both out after their positive tests.

New addition Martin Odegaard is not in the squad, but Arteta's other midweek signing Aaron Ramsdale makes the bench.

Romelu Lukaku can turn Timo Werner into the goal machine Chelsea always thought the German would become, according to Thomas Tuchel.

The Blues' £97.5million investment in Lukaku, a player they offloaded to Everton for £28m seven years ago, has been one of the most eye-catching transfers of the window.

After starring with Inter and Belgium, Lukaku looks to be in the prime years of his career, ready to transfer his own scoring form from Serie A to the Premier League.

He could make his second Chelsea debut at Arsenal on Sunday, and head coach Tuchel sees Lukaku bringing his influence to bear across the Chelsea frontline, including spurring on Werner to improve on his ho-hum first year in English football.

"This can be a big upgrade for him, to have Romelu, who likes to be in the centre of the pitch and to fight physically with defenders," Tuchel said.

"He can create spaces for Timo, first of all from a position a bit wider than he used to play for us in the last season, to play around Romelu who is like the reference as a number nine, a reference for the attack.

"Hopefully, it gives Timo the space to play around him, to feel a bit more freedom, make it a bit easier to find the dangerous spaces and start scoring again."

Werner scored just 12 goals for Chelsea last season, failing to get close to an expected goals (xG) total of 21.07 that reflected the quality of his chances.

Those goals came at a rate of one every 318.83 minutes, and his shot conversion rate of 10.17 per cent fell well short of expectations.

At the same time, however, his assists total of 11 far exceeded an expected assists (xA) total of 4.48, and he finished the campaign as a Champions League winner, meaning it was not all bad for the former RB Leipzig forward.

The only player from Europe's top five leagues to score at least 10 goals in all competitions but have a worse conversion rate than Werner was, perhaps surprisingly, Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne (9.43 per cent).

Lukaku's 30 goals for Inter came from a healthy 24 per cent conversion rate, while higher up the list Erling Haaland of Borussia Dortmund netted 41 goals with a 31.54 per cent strike rate. Haaland was one of the strikers linked with Chelsea before the club moved for Lukaku.

Behind the forwards, Chelsea have a Ballon d'Or contender in midfielder Jorginho, who followed Champions League glory by helping Italy win Euro 2020.

Jorginho and Liverpool's Fabinho were the only players in the Premier League last season to have a passing accuracy of at least 89 per cent, while winning 50-plus tackles and making 40-plus interceptions.

Seven penalties from Jorginho also came in handy for Chelsea, and Tuchel, who arrived after a spell in charge of Paris Saint-Germain in mid-season, has been highly impressed.

"I think Jorgi is a strategic player," Tuchel said. "He can play advanced, he knows what to do in ball possession, he can imagine what's going to happen one or two passes ahead.

"He knows where to help out in short and longer distances, when to switch the play and when not to. He has a good sense of rhythm and, if you watch him separately, in isolation, he lacks maybe the pure physical ability that makes him the number one candidate to be the number six in the Premier League, you'd think, but once you have him in a structure he is very well organised in his game, organises all the environment around him, which helps him, then he can show his true abilities in controlling the rhythm of a game.

"On top of that too, he is a top guy. He is funny, he has a big smile on his face every single day. You can have chats with him, have a laugh every single day with him, because he's up for it. He is in love with this game."

Tuchel said Chelsea found "momentum" last season, which carried them to their season-ending success, describing them as "a real team with exceptional spirit".

Now a Premier League title is the obvious target, and Tuchel says continuing success will only come through "consistency and the daily process".

"We will not lose focus by putting expectations on people's shoulders. We have high expectations ourselves; we need to live up to those," said the former PSG boss. "Once we lower our levels, we could lose every single game in the Premier League. That is the reality."

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