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Could Lukaku make a return to Chelsea this summer?

Inter's financial concerns could see them part with key players this summer?

April 2, 2021 By Michelle Bonsu
If reports are to be believed, Inter could be forced to part ways with several key players - including one who may end up back at a former club.

In February, British publication the Financial Times wrote a very interesting report noting the impact of COVID-19 on Inter's finances. This impact was such that Inter's majority shareholders, Suning, were seriously having to consider the prospect of selling some or all of their holdings in the club.

COVID-19, as we all know, first broke out in China before spreading all over the world. As a result, businesses, like elsewhere were put under financial strain, and many are still dealing with the ripple effects. And this extends to their ownership of football clubs as despite splashing the cash early on, many clubs under either partial or full Chinese ownership are now finding it very difficult to balance the books.

What's especially disconcerting is that appears this issue was already there even before COVID-19 hit. Just look at the example of AC Milan, which was first bought by Li Yonghong in August 2016 for an estimated €740 million. Li, who had styled himself as a "mining magnate", quickly went about on a spending spree in a bid to try to bring Milan back to the big table, only to eventually end up defaulting on his massive loans as it turned out he didn't actually possess the capital he claimed to have.

Ultimately, Milan ended up being owned by American financial services company Elliott Management in July 2018 after Li defaulted on a €415 million loan owed to the investment management firm, and they're still under Elliott ownership as of today.

Milan's cross-town rivals, Suning, currently find themselves in precarious waters. Although fiscally, they're in much better shape than Li Yonghong, the pandemic has nonetheless forced them start to their finances again. Due to stadium closures (as the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza could not host live matches) as well as a dip in sponsorship revenue the Nerazzurri ended up losing over $120 million last year, which is among the highest reported by any team playing in Europe's biggest leagues, as per American publication the New York Times.

And that's not all. According to Il Corriere dello Sport, Inter presently have a whopping financial deficit of €130 to €140 million to address if they want to balance their books heading into next season. That's as of currently, and not including any additional expenses that may occur between now and the end of the campaign on May 23rd. After that, the Nerazzurri will have 37 days to settle all affairs before closing on June 30th.

So, how do a business (or a club, in this case) who are dealing with some financial troubles balance the books?

Unfortunately it means to sell their key assets. And in the case of a team, that means their star players.

Back in February, there were some reports that had their star striker, Romelu Lukaku, linked with a move to PSG, and possibly even Manchester City. The 27-year-old Belgian international, who's in contention for the Capocannoniere and enjoying an excellent sophomore campaign under Antonio Conte, is presently Inter's highest paid player on a wage packet of about €7.5 million per season. 

His former side, Chelsea, now have apparently been added to his list of suitors, which should hardly surprise anyone, especially given how big-money signing Timo Werner has really struggled to find his footing. Despite Thomas Tuchel publicly backing his fellow German and continuing to have hope in the ex-Leipzig man, Chelsea's board will naturally be looking to find an apt replacement if Werner continues to misfire in front of goal.

Plus, given that Lukaku, who Inter reportedly has priced at €120 million, has a wealth of Premier League experience having played for Everton and Manchester United as well, the Blues know they'd be getting a player already very much familiar with the playing style of English football's top flight.

All in all, it will be very interesting to see which - if any - players will be departing the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza this summer as Inter seeks to grapple with their financial woes. But for now, the Nerazzurri will naturally be firmly focused on ending their 11 year wait to win what would be their 19th Scudetto at the end of this season.


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