Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel has attempted to play down speculation of a move for Erling Haaland and said he “fell into a trap” by joking about the prospect of partnering the Borussia Dortmund striker in attack with Romelu Lukaku.
The 48-year-old gave an interview to SportBild this week after picking up the German newspaper’s Coach of the Year award, confirming his side had looked into signing Haaland, who according to ESPN sources wants £30 million-per-year in wages for his next move, during the summer and that the Chelsea boss would have “no problem” pairing him with Lukaku.
– Don’t have ESPN? Get instant access
– ESPN+ viewers’ guide: LaLiga, Bundesliga, MLS, FA Cup, more
Tuchel’s comments reportedly provoked a furious reaction at Dortmund, who may be resigned to losing Haaland, next summer given he has a €75 million release clause which becomes active at the end of the season with a host of top clubs including Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Manchester City monitoring the situation.
“I fell into a trap,” Tuchel said. “I got an award in Germany. I got an award from a newspaper and they asked me about a player.
“Normally I never, never speak about other players because simply I never, ever do. Then we were making more or less fun about it. I should have known better because [I was] making fun about it and being a nice guy and answering a question instead of ‘no, I don’t want to answer a question’.
“Getting this award and I joke about a double striker with Romelu in October and then it gets like we put in an offer. That was the context but OK, I should have known better.”
Chelsea were originally interested in Haaland but eventually signed Lukaku from Inter Milan for €115m as Dortmund sold Jadon Sancho to Manchester United and refused to sanction any further high-profile departures.
Sancho has so far struggled to find his best form at Old Trafford after thriving in the Bundesliga, a pattern which has also been replicated in the careers of Timo Werner and Kai Havertz.
Haaland’s phenomenal form — totalling 70 goals in 69 games for Dortmund across all competitions to date — suggests he will be a success at whichever club he joins. But Tuchel said there would be no guarantees.
“It is interesting that we as German staff, we become very humble when we see the difference in performance in the Bundesliga and obviously how much harder it is to produce the same numbers in the Premier League,” he said.
“It is, by the way, the big question in every transfer you do. This player performs in Germany, Spain, Italy or the other way around in England, can he also perform in the other country, the other culture, in the other team, in the other style of football? That is for me one of the big questions because you can scout them on any physical, mental level, do tests with them and observe them, how they behave.
“On social media, they let you observe their lives so you know pretty much everything except for the fact what does it mean if you perform in club A in country B, what does it mean for your club C in country D? This will be the question.
“Every player is different so to make it a general rule, it is maybe not possible but it seems it is the toughest league here and to produce outstanding stats. This cannot be a surprise. You are proud to have this league in England and you should be. It is big fun to watch and maybe bigger fun to work in it. That’s the way it is.”
Havertz is likely to lead Chelsea’s attack against Norwich on Saturday after Lukaku and Werner were ruled out with ankle and hamstring injuries respectively.
The pair will also miss next Tuesday’s Carabao Cup fourth round home tie with Southampton but Tuchel refused to be drawn on any whether either player would return for their subsequent trip to Newcastle United on Oct. 30.