The biggest surprise wasn’t that Chelsea had finally sold Romelu Lukaku – it was a long time coming – or that they’d recouped a higher fee than the value of the player – again, something they’re well-versed in. Instead, it’s that Everton had the spending capacity to meet Chelsea’s £28million valuation of Lukaku.
It’s an eye-opener and a sign of the times. Where Everton had built a reputation of having to scour Europe for bargains and work to an extremely tight budget, they’ve now acquired a forward for a price befitting a Champions League club. That Everton haven’t competed in UEFA’s top club competition since 2005 speaks of the riches set to be available to Premier League clubs.
And regardless of what may be said of the transfer fee – indeed, £28 million is a little steep for the Belgian international – it’s a great deal for all three parties.
Lukaku needed to sever ties permanently from Chelsea. His last kick for the club came in that penalty shootout loss in the UEFA Super Cup to Bayern Munich last summer, a lazy effort on the part of the young Belgian which really contrasted his then upcoming efforts in the blue of Everton.
How much can we take from Jose Mourinho’s words that the striker wanted to be assured of a first-choice role at Stamford Bridge this season? It’s understandable that Lukaku would want to be granted importance, but surely he himself knows that such a role must be earned. Thus far in his career, he doesn’t have the experience of Diego Costa or even Fernando Torres.
But regardless of what was said in the aftermath of the sale, we knew by the midway point of last season that Lukaku and Mourinho would struggle to develop a working relationship. And in fairness to the club, it probably isn’t anything personal. Chelsea have already flipped a number of players in recent times, and Lukaku can be considered no different: a good player who served the club on the financial front rather than on the pitch. As has been done many times, commend Chelsea for a smart business model.
And once again, the west London club can feel somewhat relaxed about the destination of a much-coveted player. Though competing in the Premier League, Everton fall under the same umbrella as Wolfsburg and Paris Saint-Germain, who landed Kevin De Bruyne and David Luiz, respectively. The move doesn’t really strike the same chord as Juan Mata to Manchester United.
As for Everton, the club made great strides following the appointment of Roberto Martinez as David Moyes’ successor at Goodison Park. If we thought Moyes had been doing a good job all these years, Martinez gave an account of what is possible with a different footballing outlook.
For much of the season, Everton were in the race for a Champions League spot. That they missed out is no great upset. A major talking point of their campaign was the way Martinez had developed the football at Goodison Park – certainly for the better. The team were enterprising and brave. The step up in quality merited something big in the way of a transfer.
Lukaku’s signing for the club is a statement, one that the club aren’t to be entrenched in the healthy but generally unfulfilling position of Europa League football.
It’s a testament, too, to Roberto Martinez, who never hid his desire to bring the striker back to Merseyside after his loan spell last season. Champions League football was said to be key in whether the club could lure Lukaku back, but at 21, the Belgian has a long career ahead of him. Trophies, for now, hold far less importance than stability and a coach he can learn from.
Chelsea have once again made a sizeable profit on their investment, while clearing the decks of a player who was unlikely to have a future at the club. Meanwhile Everton have gotten exactly what they wanted, something they very much needed, taking advantage of the situation at Stamford Bridge and building on the rapport already established with the player.
This is the best deal for all three parties, the kind where you struggle to find a ‘loser’ following a major piece of transfer business.