ROMELU LUKAKU was supposed to be the missing piece, the man who would see Chelsea leapfrog Manchester City and Liverpool to win the Premier League.
The Belgian, 29, had just helped Inter Milan end Juventus' decade of dominance to win the Serie A title in emphatic manner.
The Blues were clearly missing a centre-forward – and they thought they'd found the perfect solution in their former youth team man, Lukaku.
Chelsea moved heaven and earth to land the ex-Manchester United striker.
In fact, the club's transfer team sold NINE stars and rising talents to finance a deal for Lukaku.
Tammy Abraham, Fikayo Tomori and Marc Guehi led the exodus.
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But they were joined by Olivier Giroud, Victor Moses, Tino Livramento, Ike Ugbo, Lewis Bate and Dynel Simeu in quitting Stamford Bridge.
Abraham was among the top scorers in Serie A last season and helped Roma win the Europa Conference League.
Tomori helped AC Milan win their first Serie A title in 11 years.
Guehi joined Crystal Palace and thrived – with all three now part of the England squad ahead of the 2022 World Cup – while Livramento has gone on to become one of the hottest young prospects in the Premier League.
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How Chelsea could use them all now, with Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen quitting and Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso and Lukaku looking to move on.
In all, the Blues bagged £98m for their nine "fringe" players and spent £97.5m on Lukaku, who quickly repaid them by revealing his desire to head back to the San Siro just two months later.
This summer, Chelsea are desperately seeking squad reinforcements all over the pitch, including up front with Lukaku on the brink of returning to Inter Milan on an initial loan deal.
The Italian giants have seen a £5m loan bid rejected as the West Londoners demand closer to £20m up front.
Fans once praised Chelsea's decision to trim the fat and sign a superstar.
But now many supporters are calling the move the "worst transfer in history".
On Chelsea's decision to sell nine players to finance the Lukaku deal, one fan at the time wrote: "Chelsea's sales this summer… Marina (Granovskaia) has done it again."
But the tweet has quickly bitten them on the backside, with football fans slating the Blues for their truly awful decision.
One wrote: "Chelsea paid £97m for a year of Romelu Lukaku. Comfortably the worst transfer in the history of football."
Another pointed out: "We sold Guehi, Tomori, Livramento and Abraham all to fund Lukaku. This summer we are in the market for 2 CBs, a RWB and a Striker…"
A third moaned: "We sold 100m worth of academy talent to fund Lukaku for him to leave after a year for a 95m loss. Inter have made an absolutely mockery of us."
Another recalled: "The amount of times I refreshed Twitter for Lukaku’s here we go last summer only for me to be doing it even more this summer for his departure. How times change."
One joked: "If you ever feel useless just remember that Chelsea bought Lukaku 2 times, and he flopped both times."
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A rival fan laughed: "Inter Milan sold Lukaku to Chelsea for €100m ten months ago and now offering Chelsea €5m loan fee."
And that was the general consensus as another tweeted: "Chelsea paid €100M for Lukaku last season only for inter to ask him back for €5M."
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