Thomas Tuchel has revealed his Chelsea players avoid the No.9 shirt for fear of a curse.
Romelu Lukaku has become the latest in a long line of top strikers to struggle in the famous shirt and his loan exit at Inter leaves it vacant.
There were suggestions the Blues were keeping the number usually in demand free to help land a big-name striker – possibly Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – but Tuchel insists that is not the case.
“It’s cursed, it’s cursed, people tell me it’s cursed!” joked the Chelsea boss.
“It’s not the case that we leave it open for tactical reasons, or for some players in the pipeline that come in and take it naturally.
“There was not a big demand for number nine, while players sometimes want to change their number. But, surprisingly, no one wants to touch it.
“Everybody who’s longer than me at the club says to me, ‘Ah, you know, he had the nine and he didn’t score and he had the nine and didn’t score either’.
“So now we have a moment where nobody wants to touch number nine.”
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The alleged curse dated back to the days of Fernando Torres, while Radamel Falcao, Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuain also faltered wearing Chelsea’s No.9.
Even Steve Sidwell and Khalid Boulahrouz couldn’t lift the curse.
Chelsea’s No.29 Kai Havertz looks set to start the season as Tuchel’s first-choice striker as the Blues travel to Everton on Saturday night, with no one yet brought in to replace Lukaku.
It is understood that Barcelona striker Aubameyang could be brought in as a short-term solution.
The Blues have already spent big to land Raheem Sterling, Kalidou Koulibaly, Carney Chukwuemeka and Marc Cucurella.
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