Chelsea ready to offer Romelu Lukaku fresh contract and loan him back to Everton
Chelsea are ready to offer Romelu Lukaku a new contract, despite him starting only one Premier League game for the club, and may be willing to loan the striker back to Everton next season to help inflate his value.
Lukaku's prospects at Stamford Bridge will recede even further when the west London side move for Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa this summer. But they are understood to believe that another strong loan season for the Belgian striker – he scored 15 goals in 31 games for Everton in this campaign – could enable them to make a healthy profit on the £18m they paid Anderlecht for him three years ago.
Everton, though, are understood to be ready to use their entire summer transfer budget if Lukaku becomes available and believe they would have to pay £20m to get the player.
However, taking Lukaku on loan for another season would be the ideal option for Everton manager Roberto Martinez, because he needs to bring in three or four reinforcements in the summer to enable the club to combine the Premier League and Europa League next season. If he does buy Lukaku this summer, Martinez will have to look to other loans or sales to raise money for purchases.
Lukaku, whose future plans will be decided after his World Cup campaign with Belgium, made a huge impact for Martinez last season, and the Everton side did not look as dangerous on the occasions when he was missing from their ranks.
It is that contribution which has left Martinez willing to base the entire summer transfer strategy around his availability.
Lukaku has already needled Jose Mourinho by saying he would like to stay at Goodison for another season. The Chelsea manager retorted that he would be the one who decided. Costa, 25, is a striker far more in Mourinho's mould, and in order to buy him Chelsea are ready to meet the £31.8m release clause in his contract at Atletico.
A Lukaku loan could potentially create space in the transfer budget for Everton to consider a move for Queen's Park Rangers' Loïc Rémy. Martinez is thought to admire the striker, but at an expected asking price of £13m, and with a number of other Premier League suitors to inflate the figure, the Frenchman could cost more than Everton are willing to pay.
Martinez is also waiting on a decision about the future of another of his key loan players last season – Gareth Barry. The 33-year-old is out of contract at Manchester City on 30 June and Arsenal have also expressed an interest in the midfielder, whose positional sense and dependability allowed Ross Barkley to advance and blossom.
One option available to Barry is a move to Major League Soccer in the United States, to play for New York City FC – owned by Manchester City's benefactors. But since that new MLS franchise does not begin playing for another season, Everton will seek to persuade Barry to stay with them for another year.
Martinez also remains hopeful of bringing Jack Rodwell back from City to Everton, believing he can help the midfielder fulfil the potential he showed before leaving for the Etihad.
Martinez's strike-force will be further complemented by the expected return from long-term injury of Arouna Koné, who sustained one of the most severe forms of knee injury last October, in which a part of the cartilage was entirely dislodged.
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