Romelu Lukaku can leave Everton 'without a fight'...unless he moves to Chelsea
“I don’t want to leave Everton in a fight,” was the message of Romelu Lukaku.
Lukaku gave a straight-talking interview to English newspapers last month after which it was difficult to conclude he’d remain at Goodison Park beyond this season.
Tough as it was for Evertonians to digest, his central premise was valid as he discussed his career plans. He’d left Chelsea because his career was stalling, he was not getting time on the pitch and if he was to satisfy his ultimate ambition of playing Champions League football he had to get out and prove how good he is.
Three years on he is now ready to play in the elite competition, and this season Everton have fluffed the ideal opportunity to ensure (in the short-term, at least) it is with them.
Lukaku made pertinent points about Everton’s underachievement in the Premier League – a plight that has only deteriorated after successive defeats to Arsenal and Manchester United – which means there is more sympathy than blame for the youngster when you consider scoring over 20 goals in a season has not yet yielded his team 40 points. Unacceptable. Lukaku has delivered. His team has not.
So if a Champions League club makes an offer meeting Lukaku’s valuation (it’s highly unlikely Bill Kenwright would stay on the phone if the starting point was not £50 million) there’s no inevitability his departure will be acrimonious.
Everton, however reluctant, would have to admit they must reproach themselves should their greatest goalscoring asset for 30 years take the current comparisons with Gary Lineker to the next level.
It gets complicated in the weeks since Lukaku’s first hints because among those clubs linked with the Belgian are Manchester United (far from guaranteed a top four place) and – most inexplicably and disagreeably – Chelsea. Lukaku is said to be under consideration for new Chelsea manager Antonio Conte.
Although United remain in the hunt for the Champions League and could satisfy his criteria, Lukaku would be wise to distance himself from the idea of returning to West London if he truly aspires to leave Goodison ‘without a fight’.
Although his agent Mino Raiola may have a script prepared for the scene in which his client justifies seeking a transfer to play in the Champions League only to pursue a return to a club which will not be in the competition, not even the most extravagant bid would appease those who’d see the hollowness of his earlier words.
Maybe the player wouldn’t care if his heart remains at the club of his idol Didier Drogba, but it sounded rather like he does three weeks ago.
Lukaku back to Chelsea this summer is unpalatable to Everton. In fact, it shrieks of the usual arrogance and lack of imagination from those clubs with only one remedy for rank underperformance.
“Roman, we’ve spent all these millions and we’re only tenth in the league. Tell us what we should do oh wise one…”
“Spend even more!”
Regardless of the circumstances, if Lukaku leaves Everton there will be some who won’t forgive him. That’s the nature of the modern game, but there is a way for him to go and still ensure he fulfils that ambition of ensuring the majority applaud him on his return.
If the price is right and the club he joins is in the Champions League, there will be far more understanding and validation of his decision. The attention will shift elsewhere with Roberto Martinez currently in need of the PR sanctuary of an FA Cup win - the Gwladys Street is fully aware not enough has been done on the pitch this season to support the view the change in the financial climate off it can prevent top players wanting out.
In the murky world of transfers it is too often forgotten there are five parties. The player, his agent, the investors in the agent’s agency, the buying club and the selling club.
While football’s new wealth has enabled the players, the agents and their agent’s investors to consider which offshore tax haven is most suitable for their swelling bonuses and commissions, it has also enabled clubs to be more resistant to offers.
We’ve seen increasing and plentiful examples of clubs having the audacity to say no when presumptuous bid have been lodged and the arrival of Farhad Moshiri at Everton will only strengthen their resolve to ensure they only deal on their own terms. Everton’s rejecting of Chelsea’s offers for John Stones should be fresh in the memory of those in London suggesting Lukaku is a possibility.
Chelsea can’t promise Lukaku any more than Everton next season. He would be wiser to stay where he is for one more season than going there, trying to get his current mid-table side in the Champions League rather than heading to another mid-table club where a manager has a best before date that expires after a year.
For Lukaku to leave Everton ‘without a fight’, the offer for him will have to be record-breaking and the Champions League anthem will have to be humming.
If that’s not the case and a club outside the top four is attractive to Lukaku, Eddie Hearn might as well take over promotional duties for what’s to come at the end of the season.