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Thomas Tuchel has revealed that Chelsea’s superstitious forwards do not want to touch the club’s No 9 shirt after becoming convinced it is cursed.
Chelsea, who start their Premier League season against Everton, have left the No 9 free after its last inhabitant, Romelu Lukaku, returned to Inter Milan on loan following a disappointing season back at Stamford Bridge.
Club record signing Lukaku has joined a long list of high-profile strikers, including Fernando Torres, Alvaro Morata, Hernan Crespo, Gonzalo Higuain and Radamel Falcao, who failed to justify their reputations and transfer fees in the Chelsea No 9 shirt.
Chelsea are still in the market for a new forward before the transfer window shuts and are interested in Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but head coach Tuchel confirmed the No 9 has not been purposefully left open for a potential arrival.
“It’s cursed, people tell me it’s cursed,” said Tuchel, who would not be drawn on Aubameyang. “It’s not the case that we leave it open for tactical reasons, for some players in the pipeline that come in and naturally take it.
“There was not a big demand for No 9, when players sometimes want to change numbers. But, surprisingly, nobody wants to touch it. Everybody who has been at the club longer than me tells me ‘ah, you know, like he had the nine and he did not score and he had the nine and did also not score’. So now we have a moment where nobody wants to touch the number nine.”
Two of Chelsea’s most prolific strikers in recent years, Didier Drogba and Diego Costa, wore the Nos 11 and 19 shirts while they were at Stamford Bridge. Tammy Abraham scored 21 Premier League goals in two seasons with nine on his back but was sold to Roma last summer.
New signing Raheem Sterling has never worn the No 9 shirt in his career and will wear 17 at Chelsea, while Kai Havertz has stuck with his favoured 29, Timo Werner is No 11 and Armando Broja has taken the No 18 shirt he wore on loan at Southampton.
Tuchel added: “I’m also superstitious, I can understand why players maybe don’t touch it and have other preferences. It’s like this, but I think Raheem will help us a lot and in general it’s our responsibility to create more offensive positions to have maybe a bit more players in the box.”
Chelsea completed the signing of left-sided defender Marc Cucurella for £55 million, plus £7m in add-ons, and, despite Leicester City’s insistence he is not for sale, have not given up on centre-back Wesley Fofana, who they have made more than one bid for and believe wants to move to Stamford Bridge.
Talks have been held over midfielder Frenkie de Jong, who Chelsea believe would join them over Manchester United if he decides to leave Barcelona.
Cesar Azpilicueta has signed a new two-year contract, but Tuchel confirmed that he would still like to sign another defender, even though Chelsea may have to pay more than the £80m world record fee for a defender to land Fofana.
Tuchel said: “Azpi and Trevoh Chalobah play in the same position in the back three, Marc can play in the back three on the left. Kalidou (Koulibaly) can play in the back three on the left and we have Thiago Silva who is not getting younger, unfortunately. So maybe we bring in one player, maybe not. Let’s see if we can make another signing.”
Teenage defender Levi Colwill has joined Brighton on loan and Chelsea have held talks over finding an agreement for Werner to return to RB Leipzig and Kepa Arrizabalaga to join Napoli on loan.
Cucurella, who has signed a six-year contract at Chelsea, said: ‘I’m really happy. It’s a big opportunity for me to join one of the best clubs in the world and I’m going to work hard to be happy here and help the team.”
Co-controlling owner Todd Boehly, who is interim sporting director, added: “Marc is an elite defender of proven Premier League quality and he further strengthens our squad going into the new season. We continue to work on and off the pitch, and we’re delighted Marc will be a part of the present and future at Chelsea.”