Drogba backs Lukaku to put troubles behind him at Chelsea

Belgian striker scored opener against Palmeiras in Club World Cup final

Didier Drogba has backed Romelu Lukaku to move on from his struggles on and off the pitch after the £97.5m striker played a key role in Chelsea becoming world champions for the first time.

Lukaku has not looked settled since leaving Internazionale last summer, and upset Thomas Tuchel after airing his unhappiness with life at Stamford Bridge during an unauthorised interview with Sky Italia earlier this season.

The Belgian's comments did not go down well with his manager and he was under pressure to raise his level when Chelsea flew to Abu Dhabi to play in the Club World Cup.

Encouragingly, there were signs of an improvement in the Middle East. Lukaku scored the winner when Chelsea beat Al Hilal in the last four on Wednesday and he opened the scoring with a fine header as the European champions saw off Palmeiras in Saturday's final.


The goal was Lukaku at his best and Drogba, who was instrumental in Chelsea winning the Champions League in 2012, is confident the 28-year-old can put his infamous interview behind him.

"He took his responsibility to talk and put a bit more pressure on himself and delivered tonight, scoring an important goal," the former Chelsea striker said after watching his old club lift the trophy at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

“Every player always has something to prove and will always want to do better but he scored the goal to give us the lead and I’m happy with this performance.”

Drogba is able to offer a good insight into the former Inter striker's difficulties. The Ivorian was often outspoken during his playing career and was Chelsea's main man when they first brought Lukaku to England in the summer of 2011.

It is not easy to lead the line for Chelsea. Lukaku made little impact during his first spell at Stamford Bridge and expectations were high when he returned to west London last summer, but he has been unable to help Tuchel’s side challenge for the title.

“He put himself under a certain pressure because coming back to the club where you start was difficult, and you come back because you want to prove a point,” Drogba said. “But he’s winning and I think he’s going to make it.”

Late penalty

Drogba also revealed that he offers advice to Lukaku, who has only scored 10 goals in all competitions this season.

“I hope he learned from me,” Drogba said. “He’s a goalscorer. He’s having a difficult moment, but bouncing back [and] this kind of trophy will bring his confidence back.

“When we have the time to speak I give him some advice, but after that it’s his career, it’s his responsibilities now. It’s him now. He’s in charge of the attacking players, so he has to find the ideas and make it his own story.”

Chelsea needed a late penalty from Kai Havertz to see off Palmeiras in extra time. They found it difficult against the Copa Libertadores champions, but Drogba was delighted that Chelsea have finally won every major trophy under Roman Abramovich.

“That was the ambition when I joined the club in 2004,” he said. “We started by winning the league, the FA Cup, the Carling Cup. The goal was to win trophies, but also to inspire the next generations. They knew how important this was for the club. Now I’m here and I’m celebrating with them as well.”

Chelsea's focus now will be on a successful end to the season. They have faltered in the league of late and lie third in the Premier League, 16 points behind leaders Manchester City. Tuchel has now won three trophies since his appointment last year, though, and is popular with the club's board.

The club hierarchy believe that the disruption caused by Covid-19 dented Chelsea'a title push and they are fully behind Tuchel. The team face Lille in the last 16 of the Champions League next week and meet Liverpool in the Carabao Cup final at the end of this month.

– Guardian