Most expensive loan players ever as Romelu Lukaku ends £97.5m Chelsea hell

Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku is set to return to Inter Milan a year after signing, and Daily Star Sport has taken a look at the most expensive footballers to be loaned out

Romelu Lukaku is set to leave Chelsea once again after his glorious return became a nightmare.

The former Blues striker made the £97.5 million switch back to Stamford Bridge last summer having restored his reputation at Inter Milan. However, the Belgian international struggled to convince and regularly found himself out of the starting eleven towards the end of the season.

Lukaku scored 15 goals in all competitions, but never looked a good fit for Thomas Tuchel’s side. The 29-year-old was also heavily criticised for an interview with Sky in Italy, where the striker seemed to criticise his manager’s tactics.

Tuchel later confirmed these comments were ‘not helpful’, and it is perhaps no surprise that Lukaku was reduced to a squad option for the remainder of the campaign. The striker is now heading for the exit door once again, with reports suggesting a loan agreement around £7m has been reached with the potential for add-ons.

Having made the striker their club-record signing a year ago, Chelsea look set to accept a sizeable loss on their investment. With Lukaku’s return to Italy set to be confirmed, Daily Star Sport has taken a look back at the most expensive players to be loaned out.

Tanguy Ndombele – £53.8m
Tottenham made the France international their club-record signing in the summer of 2019, but the midfielder has struggled for consistency ever since. Mauricio Pochettino, Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo and Antonio Conte have all failed to coax the best out of Ndombele on a regular basis.

The 25-year-old spent the second-half of last season on loan with former club Lyon, but the Ligue 1 club have decided against making the move permanent. Ndombele still has three years left on his contract with Tottenham, but the club will likely look to find the midfielder a new home this summer.

Miralem Pjanic – £54.8m
The Bosnian international’s arrival at Barcelona was part of a bizarre swap deal with fellow midfielder Arthur heading the other way to Juventus. The arrangement was balanced for both sides due to financial fair play regulations on amortisation.

Pjanic had been a key player at Juventus for four consecutive Serie A title triumphs, but made just 19 appearances for Barcelona. The 32-year-old spent last season on loan with Turkish side Besiktas.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – £57m
The Sweden legend famously fell out with Pep Guardiola during their time together at Barcelona. The La Liga side had spent big on the striker, with Samuel Eto’o included as part of the deal with Inter Milan.

Ibrahimovic still netted 16 league goals and helped his new side win five trophies during his only season in Spain. But with tensions behind the scenes, Barcelona sanctioned a loan return to Italy in 2010 with AC Milan who later made the move permanent.

Alvaro Morata – £60m
Conte was keen on landing Lukaku as Diego Costa’s replacement in the summer of 2017. Instead, the Premier League champions settled for the Real Madrid striker in what was then a club-record deal.

Morata made a promising start, but goals quickly became hard to come by for the Spain international. The striker was offered an escape route back to La Liga, and an initial loan move to Atletico Madrid was made permanent in 2020.

James Rodriguez – £63m
Rodriguez was viewed as the next Galactico following his stunning displays at the 2014 World Cup with Colombia. Real Madrid wasted no time in making their move, and the AS Monaco attacker became the fourth most expensive signing in history.

Having struggled to nail down a regular starting spot in the Spanish capital, Rodriguez was allowed to leave on a two-year loan to Bayern Munich in 2017. The Bundesliga champions decided against a permanent deal, paving the way for the playmaker to briefly reunite with Carlo Ancelotti at Everton.

Gonzalo Higuain – £75.3m
The former Real Madrid striker’s prolific form at Napoli convinced Juventus to swoop in the summer of 2016. Higuain made a strong start to life in Turin, but understandably lost his place with the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo two years later.

The Argentina international was loaned out to AC Milan and Chelsea, but struggled to find his best form. Higuain agreed to a mutual termination of his contract in September 2020 before signing for MLS outfit Inter Miami.

Gareth Bale – £85.3m
Bale’s forgettable end to his time at Real Madrid should not distract from the Welsh legend’s incredible career. The former world-record signing helped the club to win five Champions Leagues as well as three La Liga titles.

Bale returned to Tottenham on a season-long loan in 2020 and scored 11 times in just 20 Premier League appearances. The 32-year-old is now a free agent and is searching for a new club ahead of Wales’ World Cup campaign.

Romelu Lukaku – £97.5m
Inter Milan look set to become the ultimate winners from the latest chapter of Lukaku’s career. The Serie A side took a gamble by splashing £73m on the striker in August 2019 despite a mixed spell at Manchester United.

Lukaku found his feet in Italian football, and helped fire the club to the title before leaving for a handsome profit of almost £25m. But just a season later, Inter are set to bring the striker back on loan for a fraction of the cost.
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Antoine Griezmann – £107m
Griezmann took the unusual step of making a TV show to reveal whether he would stay at Atletico or sign for Barcelona. The France international decided to stay, only to make the move a year later.

Griezmann spent two inconsistent seasons with Barcelona, but returned to the Spanish capital on a season-long loan in 2021. Atletico agreed to an option to make the deal permanent for around £34m, but another mixed season from the forward has reportedly led Diego Simeone’s side to consider ways to lower the cost further.

Phillipe Coutinho – £142m
Coutinho’s dream switch to Barcelona in January 2018 did not pan out how any party would have wanted. The former Liverpool star seemingly struggled under the expectations, and was allowed to leave on loan to Bayern Munich in the summer of 2019.

Coutinho then was bizarrely allowed to play his parent club and scored twice as the German giants thrashed Barcelona on their way to winning the Champions League. Bayern decided against making the move permanent, and the Brazil international has now sealed a permanent exit following a loan spell with Aston Villa.

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