THOMAS TUCHEL has suggested that Romelu Lukaku is unlikely to ever play for Chelsea again.

The Belgian returned to Stamford Bridge for £97.5million last summer to much fanfare, only to be shipped back to Inter Milan on loan less than 12 months later.

Lukaku, 29, will still have three years left on his lucrative £325,000-a-week contract at Stamford Bridge.

Despite this, Tuchel does not believe there is likely to be a way back for Chelsea's former No9.

Speaking from the Blues' pre-season tour of the US, the German told Sky Sports: "Given the fact he's just on loan, of course there's a chance.

"I don't know if it's very likely, but it's not on me to give an outlook on that. There is a chance for it."

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Chelsea have replaced Lukaku, who scored just eight Prem goals last season, with £50m Manchester City star Raheem Sterling.

Explaining the decision to let the former Manchester United striker go, Tuchel said: "We decided together with the owners that we'd let him go.

"It was his wish to go, he had the possibility, we let him go.

"We brought now Raheem Sterling, which gives us a lot of flexibility, a lot of mobility, a lot of attacking options at the front, even if we don't recruit more players."

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Chelsea have now turned their attention towards bolstering their defence.

The Blues are targeting THREE new centre-backs after the departures of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen on free transfers.

They are on the verge of confirming a £35m deal for Napoli ace Kalidou Koulibaly.

While they are also in talks with Man City regarding a move for Nathan Ake, and PSG for Presnel Kimpembe.

Tuchel admitted that his side are "behind" other top clubs in the market.

He said: "We come from sanctions, we come from losing top-quality players, key players, we are a club in transition, in transition of ownership, we were behind in the transfer race and we were behind in the table. So we have things to improve.

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"The signing of Raheem shows what we're capable of doing, it shows the ambition of the club and the ownership and it's good because we're all here to win and compete.

"We love to compete and we love the challenge at the very top. For that we need signings of new quality players or otherwise there's no chance."

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