Romelu Lukaku is being misused by Chelsea and the Blues could be the best team in Europe if they utilise him correctly, according to Antonio Conte.
The Belgium star returned to Stamford Bridge for a club-record £97.5million fee from Inter in the close season, having scored 24 goals in 36 Serie A games during last term’s title-winning campaign under Conte.
The 28-year-old has managed four goals in seven outings in all competitions for the Blues, including the winner against Zenit in their Champions League opener. It made him only the second player to score for two English clubs on debut in the competition after Mario Balotelli.
However, Conte believes Thomas Tuchel can get more out of his new signing to make Chelsea the best team in Europe.
“He [Romelu Lukaku] is a very specific striker,” Conte told Sky Sport Italia ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League clash with Juventus on Wednesday.
“Bringing Lukaku into the box, he is dangerous. However, when he starts from midfield, he is incredibly quick. It is very difficult to find a player who is a target man but can also run from midfield.
“The good thing about Romelu is that he can hurt you anywhere. If you keep him far away from the penalty area, he can kill you with his pace. If you have him in the box, he has the physicality to be a target man.
“Last season, they didn’t have a proper centre-forward, so they rotated positions, whereas Romelu is a real reference point in attack. If they can figure out how to use Lukaku, Chelsea can become the team to beat in the Champions League this season.”
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Indeed, Lukaku has gone from strength to strength following his first goal for Chelsea against Arsenal in his 16th appearance for the club, nine years and 360 days after his initial debut.
But Conte insists Lukaku, who last term became the only player in the past 15 Serie A seasons to have at least 20 goals and 10 assists in a single campaign, can offer more for Tuchel if the Blues utilise him correctly.
“He is a generous, one who also gives you assists,” Conte continued. “This is Lukaku’s specific [talent], which I also see in [Erling] Haaland.
“He still has room for technical improvement, but he has already reached very high levels. He can improve in some phases of the game, he needs to be switched on sometimes.
“He is impressive, he is one of the most difficult forwards to face. He must always be played, but at Chelsea they have not quite understood how to use him.”