No Morata so Blues target Lukaku

LONDON • Chelsea's hopes of signing Alvaro Morata were dashed on Sunday when Real Madrid ruled out selling the striker, meaning that the west London football club will step up their bid to re-sign Romelu Lukaku.

Real exercised a £24 million (S$42.4 million) buy-back clause to re-sign Morata from Juventus with the intention of selling him but have had second thoughts about that plan.

The Spanish club are without Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, who were given extra time off after Euro 2016, and have pencilled in Karim Benzema and Morata to start together in the Uefa Super Cup game against Sevilla next Wednesday.

Zinedine Zidane, the Real manager, said that Morata - who scored 27 goals for the Italian side in two years - would stay, but would not say if he wanted to sign Eden Hazard from Chelsea.

"He's a Madrid player, we're delighted with him," Zidane said of Morata. "He has come home and is going to stay with us this year because he is a very strong player and I can clearly see that."

Antonio Conte, the new Chelsea manager, was unable to recruit Gonzalo Higuain, who joined Juventus for £75 million, Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani nor Carlos Tevez from Boca Juniors.

The number of top strikers available is limited, which may explain Chelsea's move to sign Michy Batshuayi last month.

Michael Emenalo, Chelsea's technical director, is keen to sign Lukaku, who scored 25 times for Everton last season, and has indicated that he would return to Stamford Bridge.

He scored 16 times during a loan spell at Goodison Park before joining permanently from Chelsea for £28 million in the summer of 2014. Everton want about £60 million for him.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 02, 2016, with the headline 'No Morata so Blues target Lukaku'. Print Edition | Subscribe