Sport Soccer

Sunday 25 March 2018

Martinez: No issue over Lukaku

Everton manager Roberto Martinez, right, insists there is no issue over striker Romelu Lukaku's future
Everton manager Roberto Martinez, right, insists there is no issue over striker Romelu Lukaku's future

Everton manager Roberto Martinez insists there is no issue with striker Romelu Lukaku's future at the club despite comments from his new agent setting alarm bells ringing among fans.

The Belgium international, who was injured for the Toffees' 1-0 win over Southampton courtesy of Phil Jagielka's fifth goal of the season, has just signed up with Mino Raiola, who has the likes of Mario Balotelli and Paul Pogba on his books.

On Friday he gave an interview to a Belgian newspaper in which he said: "If we had met each other earlier, he wouldn't have played for Everton.

"We will see what happens in the summer but the Everton directors don't have to think Rom will play there for the rest of his career."

Martinez dismissed the comments, suggesting Raiola was trying to make a statement of intent having taken over the 21-year-old's interest.

"He is an agent that has worked just a short period of time with a new client. For whatever reason he needs to do those comments," said the Everton boss.

"I am sure every agent will have some sort of comments about his clients. I am not going to get involved talking about an agent.

"From my point of view Romelu is one of the most important signings we have ever made; that shows the commitment and the investment we have made.

"He has an incredible talent and at 21 he has a long-term contract. For me there is not an issue.

"I always speak with Rom and all the players about those situations. Rom made the decision of changing his agent. He is entitled to do that. It is a personal decision.

"Romelu is a very important player for us. As a football club we showed an incredible respect and integrity in the way we conducted our decisions about him and his career and we will carry on doing that."

Turning his thoughts to Everton's third successive victory, which has lifted them to 11th in the table, Martinez was pleased with the way his side ground out the result.

"We stopped them from doing what they normally do. They found it hard to break us down," he added.

"It was a really interesting game from a tactical point of view. They only had two shots on target which shows you how well we defended but Tim Howard was at his very best.

"As a team we defended very well because from then on Southampton never had a shot on target."

Saints boss Ronald Koeman admitted the defeat, their eighth in a 10-match win-less sequence of league visits to Goodison Park, had ended their outside chance of Champions League football and they now had to focus on Europe's second-tier competition.

"It is not realistic at this moment to think of the first four positions of the table," he said.

"It is more realistic to think about the Europa League but the Europa League for us is like the Champions League for Arsenal and Manchester United.

"We are very disappointed about the result today. It was a little bit more difficult for us to create chances.

"It is more difficult because of how opponents are defending and playing against Southampton.

"Everton played at home and defended the result and that is out of respect."

Press Association

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