Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel has admitted players do not want to wear the No. 9 shirt at Stamford Bridge because they believe it is “cursed”.
The number is currently vacant following Romelu Lukaku’s departure for Inter, with the Belgium international the latest striker to struggle to live up to expectations at Stamford Bridge.
Lukuka returned to Chelsea in a £98 million ($136m) deal but went back to the San Siro less than 12 months later on loan after failing to make the desired impression in west London.
The Belgian’s struggles follow that of top strikers such as Fernando Torres, Radamel Falcao, Alvaro Morata, and Gonzalo Higuain who have also found goals hard to come by when wearing Chelsea’s No. 9.
Tuchel has now opened up on the situation and admits that there have been no takers for Lukaku’s shirt since the striker departed the club in June.
“It’s cursed, it’s cursed, people tell me it’s cursed. 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,” he said.
“There was not a big demand for No 9. Players sometimes want to change numbers but, surprisingly, nobody wants to touch it.
“Everybody who is longer than me in the club tells me: ‘Ah, you know, like he had the 9 and he did not score and he had the 9 and did also not score.’ So we now we have a moment where nobody wants to touch the No 9.”
Tuchel was also asked whether Chelsea would sign a striker in the summer transfer window, amid speculation the Blues are interested in Barcelona’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, but gave little away about his plans.
“Let’s see and check it out. We come from this curse of No 9; I’m also superstitious, I can understand why players maybe don’t touch it and have other preferences,” he added.
“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.”