My piece on the Boot Room on why Romelu Lukaku won’t be leaving Everton
Romelu Lukaku might want to get used to remaining in Everton blue.
The Belgian striker’s future has been the cause for much debate in recent seasons and the player himself stoked the fire recently. As reported by The Guardian, Lukaku stated in an interview on Belgian TV that he will not be signing the new contract handed to him by his employers. The Everton talisman is in the midst of another fine season for the Toffees, with a league-leading 23 goals in the Premier League.
Lukaku has often made it known that his interest is to play at the highest levels. He’s done so internationally with Belgium but feels the opportunities have passed him by at the club level.
Lukaku’s move to Everton was certainly a step down for the Belgian star but not a huge step back considering the club’s history and status just outside the elite in the Premier League. The former Anderlecht man has definitely benefited from the move though, as he’s proven himself to be one of the top forwards in the league.
While his ambition and talent has surely attracted the attention of the elite it’s not as if he’s completely outgrown Everton.
Lukaku’s mixture of physicality, pace and clinical finishing make him a solid player but he is not the finished article. He can go missing at times, as he did in the recent Merseyside derby against Liverpool, and he doesn’t have the work-rate that has become the norm for modern forwards. Add in a somewhat dubious touch and poor link-up play at times and it’s evident there’s still work to be done. He is still only 23.
Considering his progression at Everton, Lukaku will surely want to be a key member of whatever side he may go to next. The options where that are concerned range from non-existent to severely limited with our without a musical chair for forwards.
Antonio Conte has already stopped the Spanish international leaving once though, and will likely prefer his compatriot, Andrea Belotti, and the work-rate he brings to the table. Elsewhere in London, there is Tottenham with Harry Kane and an Arsenal team that lacks ambition.
Further north, Liverpool are, obviously, out of the question and neither Manchester club looks like a good option. If Pep Guardiola doubts Sergio Aguero then he most certainly will find fault with Lukaku plus he already has Gabriel Jesus on hand.
At United, Lukaku may look at Mourinho’s 180 with Juan Mata for a glimmer of hope but Zlatan Ibrahimovic is likely to stay for another year and Mourinho himself may not be interested in signing a player he harbors doubts about.
Things don’t get better when top teams elsewhere are considered.
The Serie A would be a step down before considering that the likes of Juventus, Napoli and Roma all have solid options up front. The Milan giants are still rebuilding and neither of those teams are in strong position when it comes to playing in the Champions League next season.
Neither Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund present good options in the Bundesliga. Bayern have no need for him with Lewandowski in fine form, while Dortmund, with or without Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng in the way, are a project that will take another season or two to fully come together.
Spain is even less promising as one cannot see Lukaku working well under the intensity of Diego Simeone or Jorge Sampaoli at Atletico Madrid and Sevilla. He certainly isn’t needed, nor would he fit, at Barcelona and Real Madrid have Alvaro Morata and other fish to catch such as Eden Hazard. Meanwhile, Paris Saint-Germain have only recently entered the Edison Cavani era in Ligue 1.
There will undoubtedly be eyes wandering in Lukaku’s direction this summer both domestically and abroad. Whether the clubs mentioned above will convince themselves to commit to what will surely be a significant fee to upset their apple cart remains to be seen. Lukaku himself will have lots of questions to consider.
Will he want to move to a lesser league? Will he move to a team that aren’t in the elite, yet play Champions League just because they are in the Champions League? Would he move to a side that is only guaranteed a play-off spot? In some cases, Lukaku would just be making a sideways with the possible bonus of yearly Champions League play.
While Everton’s best bet right now is entry into the Europa League next season they could be better placed than most to be in the Champions League in the future. Win the Europa League next season and they are there in 2018/19. Alternatively, Ronald Koeman, with the backing of the new ownership, could continue Everton’s progression and have them challenge for the top four next season.
Everton haven’t necessarily lacked ambition so much as they haven’t found a way to break through the brick wall of the big six. That time may be coming. Lukaku’s best bet to play at the highest levels won’t be to clamor for a move away. It will be to lead Everton there.