Thomas Tuchel has revealed his Chelsea players are avoiding the No.9 shirt amid fears of a curse.
Romelu Lukaku became the latest in a long line of high-profile strikers to struggle in the famed jersey and his loan exit to Inter leaves it vacant.
There were suggestions the Blues were keeping the usually in-demand number free to help lure 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!” the Chelsea boss joked.
“It’s not the case that we leave it open for tactical reasons, or for some players in the pipeline that come in and naturally take it.
“There was not a big demand for number nine, when players sometimes want to change numbers. But, surprisingly, nobody wants to touch it.
“Everybody who is longer than me in the club tells me, ‘Ah, you know, he had the nine and he did not score and he had the nine and did also not score’.
“So now we have a moment where nobody wants to touch the number nine.”
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The supposed curse stretched back to the days of Fernando Torres, while Radamel Falcao, Alvaro Morata and Gonzalo Higuain also faltered wearing Chelsea’s No.9.
Not even Steve Sidwell and Khalid Boulahrouz could lift the curse.
Kai Havertz, Chelsea’s No. 29, looks set to start the season as Tuchel’s first-choice striker as the Blues travel to Everton on Saturday evening, with nobody yet brought in to replace Lukaku.
It is understood 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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