Belgian forward Romelu Lukaku has delivered a hammer blow to Everton by rejecting their offer to become the club’s highest paid player of all-time and confirming he has no intention of re-signing with the club.
The Toffees were keen to tie down their star man, who has just over two years left on his current contract, to a new club record deal believed to be in the region of £140,000 a week, making him the club’s first £100,000 a week player.
The news no doubt coming as a shock to Evertonians with the player’s agent stating in December that Lukaku’s new contract was 99.9% done. However, clearly these talks have broken down and Everton face a serious problem. Doubtless, they will try and make him reconsider but if not, they face the choice of forcing him to see out the rest of contract before allowing their star to leave on a free transfer or they can choose their time to cash in, knowing that the longer they leave it, the less they will be able to demand. The 23-year-old who already has 19 Premier League goals this season will undoubtedly command a large fee, believed to be in the region of £60m.
Why does he want to leave?
In the past, Lukaku has made no secret of his ambitions to play in the Champions League and during the Champions League clash between Manchester City and Monaco which finished 5-3 to the English side, sent this cryptic tweet which caused quite a backlash from fans.
A similar backlash came from fans when manager Ronald Koeman told Belgian publication HLN he felt Lukaku needed to leave the club to fulfil his potential.
“If Romelu was to play at Everton until the end of his career, I know he has left something (behind). His potential is greater and higher than Everton, as a final destination. He is potentially a great striker, one who is only 23-years old. I think Lukaku is quite complete. He can hold a ball and be a target man and, because he is tall and physically strong, you can play directly with the long ball.” He then compared Lukaku to former Netherlands and Barcelona striker Patrick Kluivert and suggested Lukaku’s career could follow a similar path.
“Patrick Kluivert was also a striker who was quite young in the picture and had a fantastic career. Eventually, Kluivert played for Barcelona, which could happen with Lukaku.”
Clearly, Koeman knew this day was coming but for the sake of himself and the club, he would have hoped it was further into the future. Everton have built their whole side around the goals of Lukaku and were banking on him being the man to spearhead the club’s assault in Europe next season (The striker scored eight goals in nine appearances in the Toffees’ last European campaign in 2014/15). With the club currently sitting seven points ahead of 8th place West Brom, it’s safe to say they will more than likely secure at least a spot in the Europa League qualifiers.
Where could he go?
Champions League football is what the forward has his eye on and he will have many suitors willing to give him just that. Last summer he was linked with Manchester United and with Wayne Rooney and Zlatan Ibrahimovic ageing, they could well be in the market for a proven young striker. In the same window, Chelsea enquired about re-signing the forward but were not prepared to meet Everton’s valuation. He has also been linked with European giants Paris St Germain and Bayern Munich.
Career so far
It’s easy to see why he is such a coveted asset. In 2009, he burst onto the scene for Anderlecht at the age of just 16, scoring 41 goals in the following two seasons to earn himself a move to Chelsea. He found opportunities limited under Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo and spent the following two seasons out on loan at West Brom and Everton where he scored 17 and 15 Premier League goals respectively.
This persuaded the Merseyside club to break their transfer record and shell out £28m to bring the forward to the club on a permanent basis in 2014. An inspired decision as Lukaku has finished each of his three full seasons at the club as the top goalscorer and recently broke Duncan Ferguson’s Premier league record of 60 goals for Everton with his 61st strike for the club in the 3-2 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur. He now sits on 62 Premier league goals in 131 appearances for the Toffees (79 in 176 overall) and former record holder turned coach Duncan Ferguson has described Lukaku as a ‘machine‘ and stated his wish for him to score a ‘couple of hundred‘ for the club.
The club have an almighty task ahead of them to find a replacement. Lukaku has 20 goals in all competitions this season and has been a virtual ever-present. In stark contrast, Everton’s other two senior strikers are Arouna Kone, who has just two goals this season, both in a home EFL Cup tie against League 2 Yeovil Town and on-loan Enner Valencia who also has just two goals. Elsewhere, youngsters Dominic Calvert-Lewin and £10m signing Ademola Lookman have a single goal between them.
Could Everton survive without him?
Lukaku leads the chase for the golden boot with 19 Premier League strikes and with Harry Kane facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines, becomes the favourite to make the award his own. Everton’s complete reliance on the forward is cruelly exposed when you consider Lukaku has scored 40% of his club’s goals in the league this season and behind Lukaku, Everton’s next best is Ross Barkley, Keven Mirallas and defender Seamus Coleman who have four goals apiece.
Lukaku is undoubtedly Everton’s best player and losing him would be a terrible blow the club would struggle to recover from. The news comes as a particularly big blow to new shareholder Farhad Mohsiri, the Iranian billionaire promising funds to propel the club to the Champions League but surely he planned to have the club’s big star as the vocal point of his new-look team. The whole side is already built around him and his goals are the only thing sustaining their European push. With the complete lack of depth in the striker ranks, Everton are extremely vulnerable and even though they could be looking at £60m+ to replace him, it will not be an easy transition to life without Lukaku.
Everton will be desperate to persuade him to stay but even if they do prompt a change of heart, they will only be delaying the inevitable, a player of Lukaku’s ability will ruthlessly pursue Champions League football and the possibility of winning trophies, if this is not at Everton, as he seems to believe, he will not hesitate to move on. The hierarchy of the club have as long as two years to identify a replacement and they may well need all of that.
Feature image credit: Football.ua