Chelsea: Has Romelu Lukaku to Manchester United Transfer Left Antonio Conte with Crisis?

Romelu Lukaku, a 24-year-old man caught giddily between two rich, powerful suitors, could not really lose in the summer of 2017.

Lukaku was going to get paid and he was going to get a move upwards in the football world even though his current club Everton has plans to gatecrash the Premier League's elite.

As for Chelsea, the club the Belgian appears to have spurned? The Premier League champion has lost, heavily, in a lengthy and ultimately doomed pursuit.

This must hurt. Especially for Roman Abramovich, the Chelsea owner, and head coach Antonio Conte because for so long Chelsea looked like Lukaku's inevitable destination this transfer window. He would rejoin the club he left in 2012, first on loan and then permanently, replacing Diego Costa and then some and scoring the goals to bring the west London club successive league titles.

The course of the transfer market never did run smooth, though. United has acted with devastating swiftness, helped by Lukaku's close friendship with Paul Pogba and an already-established relationship with Mino Raiola, agent of both those players. Jose Mourinho had appeared fixated on Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata, although that chase now takes on a different, diversionary air.

Lukaku was due for a medical on Thursday night in Los Angeles, as United looked to jam the door shut on any possibility of Chelsea sneaking back through. Mourinho has reportedly been left frustrated by his own club's prevarications this summer, but this looks more like the old United than the dawdlers of recent years. See deal, get deal done. Leave your rival in tears.

Chelsea, so assured this past spring as it stiff-armed Tottenham Hotspur to win the Premier League, appears from the outside at least unsure and jelly-legged. Its "in" column this summer reads Willy Caballero, the former Manchester City goalkeeper, on a free transfer.

This surely wasn't the way Conte saw the summer going, and there is the risk that his own reported frustrations will grow alongside Chelsea's current futility. An agreeable twist would be for Conte to turn up at Morata's house with a rose between his teeth. Conte and Morata worked together at Juventus and the Spain international is now reported by The Independent to be in limbo after United rejected him.

Even if that happened, it would still feel like United has seized the initiative. What should have been a summer of love for Chelsea, using the glow of its Premier League title to attract even better players, could yet turn rancorous.