Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has dismissed the suggestion that the European champions’ capture of Romelu Lukaku’s signature now makes them favourites to win the Premier League.
Belgium striker Lukaku, who won’t be available for Saturday’s season opener against Crystal Palace, completed a headline-grabbing return to Stamford Bridge on Thursday, costing a reported PS97.5 million ($A183 million) from Inter Milan.
The Blues were surprise Champions League winners last term after appointing Tuchel as replacement for the sacked Frank Lampard in January but only scraped a fourth-placed league finish – 19 points adrift of champions Manchester City.
While former Paris St Germain coach Tuchel is delighted to have landed one of his main summer transfer targets, he insists Chelsea still have significant work to do in order to close the gap to their rivals.
“We’re happy to have Romelu back in the club; we think in terms of personality, speed, power, he can be hopefully an excellent choice for us,” said the German.
“He has the power, the physique to help us, he has the experience, the personality to have a huge impact. He is at the same time a humble guy, and a true team player player and he cares about Chelsea.”
Speaking about expectations, he added: “Everybody who can read saw that we came fourth and we needed some help on the last match day from our rivals to arrive in fourth place and make it in the end a successful season.
“When you come fourth, you are not the favourites in the next season. We have some gaps to close.
“We let Liverpool pass us in the last match and we have a big gap to close to Manchester United and Manchester City. When I see the transfer market and the activity from City and United, I don’t see why they should be any worse than last season.
“We see ourselves as hunters, as challengers for the three teams that landed in front of us.”
Chelsea initially signed Lukaku from Anderlecht in 2011 but he was restricted to just 15 first-team appearances – in which he failed to score – and loaned out to West Brom and Everton.
“He is super hungry. He did everything to take this little chance to make it happen because with Inter he was a huge player, with all the responsibility on his shoulders and with a big title (Serie A) in the last season,” he said.
“We think that Romelu coming from the academy and having always Chelsea in his heart is the perfect addition to our group because he embodies all that we are proud of in this club.”