With Everton set to miss out on any form of European qualification this season – unless they can win the FA Cup – the Merseyside club could well have a job on their hands holding onto some of their star names.
John Stones, Ross Barkley and Gerard Deulofeu may all be in demand this summer, with clubs participating in the continent’s top tournaments sure to be alluring for these young stars.
However, arguably the most in-demand of Everton’s prized jewels will be Romelu Lukaku, who continues to impress on Merseyside.
The Belgium international has recently admitted that he wants to be playing Champions League football in the near future and his performances this season show that it is something of a travesty for him not to be. Lukaku has always been full of potential since he burst onto the scene as a fresh-faced teenager at Anderlecht, but this promise is starting to reap real dividends now.
The former Chelsea striker has scored 18 Premier League goals this season, but what has been more impressive has been the improvement of his hold-up play and all-round game. Unfathomably, Lukaku is still only 22, despite it feeling like he has been around for years, and as such he must be one of the most valuable centre forwards in the European game.
Although they will face stiff competition for his signature, Manchester United would be best advised to break the bank to land the former West Brom loanee. The Red Devils have been touted as one of the teams keeping tabs on the powerful attacker, and taking him to Old Trafford would be a real statement of intent.
United’s attacking play this season under Louis van Gaal has been largely uninspiring, with a lack of potency in front of goal. The Manchester outfit have been overly reliant on Anthony Martial in his debut campaign in English football, while 18-year-old schoolboy, Marcus Rashford, has provided a few moments of magic to keep the team in the top-four hunt.
However, if a player of Lukaku’s ilk were to arrive at Old Trafford to lead the line, United’s attack would strike fear into the hearts of opposition rearguards next season. Having the creativity of the likes of Wayne Rooney, Juan Mata, Jesse Lingard and Ander Herrera providing chances to the Belgian would surely be a winning combination and offer Van Gaal’s side something they have lacked this term.
Rooney is getting older and lacks the same mobility in his game that was apparent in his youth, while Martial is more of a threat in behind defences and is still learning the finer details of holding the ball up.
Having a complete No.9 like Lukaku in their squad would make United’s attack more versatile, but more importantly it would add a physical and clinical edge to a unit that has been toothless at times in 2015/16.
Looking at the rate of the centre forward’s progression and the fact that Everton paid £28m for him two years ago, an astronomical fee will be needed to convince the Toffees to sell. Despite this potentially taking a large proportion of United’s available funds, it would be worth every penny.