Five reasons why £75million for Romelu Lukaku is money well spent by Manchester United
Manchester United finally unveiled Lukaku yesterday - and here's why he's a perfect fit.
1. He is a proven Premier League goalscorer
Only Sergio Aguero has scored more Premier League goals than Lukaku since 2012 and, unlike the Argentina international, Lukaku has done it playing for a team that has not been good enough to qualify for the Champions League. He was also prolific for Anderlecht in Belgium and on loan at West Bromwich Albion. Nothing is ever guaranteed when you sign a player, but if it is goals you are after as a Premier League manager, Luakau is as close as you are going to get.
The Belgium international has been Everton’s top scorer every season since he joined in 2013 for a club record £28m. He was also the leading goalscorer for the Merseysiders in the Premier League era and became the first Everton player since Gary Lineker, way back in 1986, to break the 30 goal barrier last season.
He is also part of a very select group, alongside Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen and Wayne Rooney, to have scored over 80 Premier League goals before their 24th birthday.
2. He should get better and his value will not drop
One of the biggest things in Lukaku’s favour is his age. There is a widely held assumption in football that the best time to sign a player is when they are in their mid-twenties and the Belgian has just turned 24.
The thinking is, at that age, if they have been playing regular first team football, they have the necessary experience to cope with the pressure and expectation of a big money move. More importantly, though, they have still not reached their peak. In theory, Lukaku will continue to improve and he will be a better player in two or three years.
In terms of a long-term business model, this also means his value is likely to increase rather than fall. That is not the case if you sign a striker who is 28 or 29. Although the deal is not cheap, it still represents value for money. If Lukaku is worth £75m now, he could feasibly be worth double that by 2019.
3. Harry Kane is not available
There is probably only one Premier League striker who was a more attractive option to Lukaku, but Harry Kane is not going to leave Tottenham Hotspur this summer and, even if he was open to the idea of quitting White Hart Lane, the cost of the transfer would exceed £100m given the length of his contract at Spurs.
Lukaku has deliberately let his contract run down because he wanted to leave Everton. As soon as it was announced that he had rejected the offer of an extension, everybody knew Everton would be forced to sell.
They have still been able to get a huge amount of money, but ultimately, they also know they cannot stand in his way. Lukaku and his agent, Mino Raiola, engineered this situation and when clubs know there is only one year left on a player’s contract, they have the conditions needed to force a sale.
4. His size and strength
Strikers will always be ultimately judged on how many goals they score. Goals win games and strikers score goals, that is why they are always the most expensive players to sign. The modern game, though, has changed. The era of the poacher is over. Strikers have to do more than that in most tactical systems and Lukaku’s ability to play as a lone forward, or with a partner up front, also makes him extremely attractive.
Strong in the air, technically sound and quick enough to cause panic, Lukaku can play for a team that relies on counter attacks or one that looks to dominate teams through possession. He can either play on the shoulder of the last defender, or with his back to goal. He can be a link man as well as an out and out striker.
If you were looking for someone to replace Diego Costa in Chelsea’s system, or Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Manchester United’s, Lukaku is ideal. That is why he was in such high demand.
5. Strengthening at the expense of a rival
Everton are an ambitious club, with new investors, hoping to break into the Champions League. Ronald Koeman intends to build a side at Goodison Park that can challenge for silverware, but their rivals knew they could weaken them by signing their main goalscorer.
Whoever replaces Lukaku, will not automatically fill the void, regardless of their pedigree elsewhere, so his departure, no matter how it is spun, weakens Everton.
In turn, Chelsea and Manchester United were both desperate to sign the player because they knew the other club wanted them. It is a double win situation for United, a double lose for Chelsea.
United know the signing of Lukaku has delivered a huge blow to Chelsea’s recruitment plans and caused friction at Stamford Bridge between manager Antonio Conte and the board because they have missed out on one of the top targets.
It is a high stakes power grab, a Machiavellian move in football’s cut throat, elite level transfer market. The signing of Lukaku will not only significantly improve United’s team, it weakens two of their top six rivals.