The London club are scheduled to talk with Inter’s chief executive Beppe Marotta again on Sunday in a bid to broker a compromise that will see Belgium international Lukaku return to San Siro after just one disappointing year at Stamford Bridge.
New Chelsea owner Todd Boehly will then crank up his club’s interest in persuading City to sell Sterling. The Premier League champions have been unable to agree a new contract with the England forward.
City now face the prospect of losing the 27-year-old for nothing when his current deal expires next year. And although Sterling would then be free to realise his ambition of playing abroad, the prospect of returning to his London roots is also an appealing prospect. Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel is a big fan of Sterling – and would welcome the departure of Lukaku.
The West London club would like to find an escape route for the 29-year-old first. And Inter want him back after finishing last season in second place behind bitter rivals AC Milan. Chelsea told Inter that it would cost them £21million to take Lukaku on loan for the season – just a year after they handed the Serie A giants £97.5million to re-sign their former player.
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Inter’s initial offer of £6million was dismissed immediately. But the lines of communication have remained open between the two clubs and both feel an agreement can be reached this weekend. Inter are also in talks with Paris Saint-Germain about selling £70million-rated Slovakian defender Milan Smriniar to the French club. And that would secure the finance to sign Lukaku, who earns in excess of £300,000-a-week.
Boehly has been instrumental in negotiations with both Lukaku’s advisers and Inter. The American is believed to have reservations about allowing the striker to leave Stamford Bridge for a second time. But it was made clear to him that keeping a player of his value at the club when it was clear he is no longer in Tuchel’s plans would be a bigger mistake. Lukaku is also keen for an agreement to be sealed on the terms of his departure. He believes he was at his best in Italy and loves Milan so much that he still owns a house and an apartment in the city.