No Rom for rest - Martinez
Published 16/04/2015 | 10:36
Everton manager Roberto Martinez admits he would not be able to ease striker Romelu Lukaku through the remainder of the season even if he wanted to.
The Belgium international is set to return from a four-week absence with a hamstring injury this weekend at home to Burnley.
Considering the workload the 21-year-old has had over the last 10 months, taking in the World Cup in Brazil and then heading straight into a Premier League and European campaign, there may have been a temptation to let their top scorer have a more restful end to the season with the Toffees having nothing to play for.
However, Martinez believes he would have a difficult time trying to convince him to take it easy, even if he was inclined to protect his striker from more injuries before the end of the campaign.
"I think it would be near-enough impossible to keep Rom away from the football pitch at this stage. It's not in his nature," said the Spaniard.
"Someone like Rom needs to be on the football pitch. He is only 21 and I don't think there is any need for that at all.
"If I am completely honest I think he has been suffering a lot in the last seven to 10 days that he has been injured and away from the team.
"Rom belongs on the pitch, working for the team and scoring goals and becoming important and I don't think there is a strong case to rest him now.
"What we have to make sure is when he gets involved with Belgium in June he gets a proper break and he can recover and regenerate and get ready for next season."
Lukaku struggled to find his form in the first half of the season after the World Cup and he had only two goals to his name by mid-October.
In 26 appearances up to and including January 1 he scored just seven times, but Martinez believes once he regained full sharpness there was a significant change.
That is backed up by his statistics since January 1 as he has scored 11 in 16 matches.
"I think there have been two clear different periods," added Martinez.
"Coming back from the World Cup was a really tough moment from a physical point of view to get back to his best level.
"We worked really hard to get him back to the level and from the last week of December there was a real change for someone like him who relies on his physical capability.
"I thought he hit the best level and from that point on we have seen a completely different Romelu: someone who was in control of his movements and then the power and pace was very effective.
"He has always been a clinical goalscorer and I think his level has generally been quite impressive."
In four Europa League ties in the knockout stage Lukaku scored seven times, including a hat-trick against Young Boys in Switzerland. With 18 goals in total this season he is Everton's leading scorer by some considerable margin (Steven Naismith and Kevin Mirallas have nine apiece).
Martinez believes Lukaku has shown he can shoulder the burden which comes with his £28million price tag.
"What he has done in Europe and what he has done as a young man, taking responsibility for the team, has been very impressive," he said.
"He is only 21 and it is only his second full season in an important role in a team playing a lot of minutes.
"Last season he managed to play 20 full games, I expect him to play more than that this season and that will be an incredible step forward to grow and develop.
"Since January we have been delighted with his performances but I must admit since the start of the season I have been delighted with his attitude as he has taken responsibility and grown so quickly.
"When you see Rom play now you would never say he was 21 years old."