Romelu Lukaku

Is Everton’s new striker Romelu Lukaku worth $47 million?

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On Wednesday Everton made Romelu Lukaku their record signing by splashing out just a smidgen under $50 million for the Belgian striker.

That’s some serious cheddar.

Lukaku, 21, spent the entire 2013-14 campaign on loan at Goodison Park from Chelsea and scored 16 goals in all competitions. He was the highest fulcrum in Roberto Martinez’s beautifully crafted pendulum which saw the Toffees excite and delight their own fans and neutrals with an attacking brand of soccer.

[RELATED: Lukaku seals Everton deal]

If Lukaku didn’t come back for this season and the foreseeable future, Martinez masterplan for Everton could have quickly come unhinged. When you put it like that, $47 million for Lukaku is worth it. However, is still seems pretty extortionate. Especially for a club like Everton who last season loaned in three players, spent $40 million on six new players and have always been extremely frugal in the transfer market. Now they’ve spent more than last summer’s transfer budget on just one player. It is hard to put an acceptable financial figure on a player these days as Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea blow transfer records out of the water every summer. To put it into context Chelsea paid $55 million for Diego Costa this summer, while Real bought James Rodriguez for $107 million and Barcelona snapped up Luis Suarez for $125 million. Lukaku cost less than all of those other strikers and is considerably younger.

So, what are the Toffees getting for their money?

After signing for Chelsea in 2011 from Anderlecht, Lukaku spent his first season at Stamford Bridge playing for the reserves before being loaned out to West Brom for the 2012-13 season. With the Baggies Lukaku flourished, scoring 17 times in 35 PL games and everyone thought he’d head back to Chelsea to compete for a starting spot. Wrong. Jose Mourinho just didn’t seem to fancy Lukaku’s ability and sent him out on loan to Everton, where he dazzled with his pace, power and clinical finishing, and now he’s found a new home on Merseyside.

source: Getty Images
Lukaku’s strength and power make him a nightmare for defenders to make.

Lukaku’s strength is what’s key to to the way Everton play. Long balls from full backs Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines often find their way into Lukaku’s feet and the Belgian is so adept at holding it up and bringing Everton’s other attackers into play. Without Lukaku using his brute strength to hold off one or even two PL defenders, the likes of Ross Barkley, Kevin Mirallas, Steven Naismith and even full backs Coleman and Baines wouldn’t be able to surge forward and join in attacks. He is very important to the way Martinez sets up his Everton side. Just ask Matt Besler and the U.S. national team defense how strong Lukaku is. During the Round of 16 defeat to Belgium at the World Cup, Lukaku jumped off the bench and bullied Besler for the first goal, then scored the second as he effortlessly shrugged off U.S. defenders. In today’s game athleticism and pace is such a key component of being successful. Lukaku is one of the finest physical specimen out there but he is still developing at the ripe age of 21.

That said, the Toffees desperately needed him. Chelsea knew that and have held out for a very good sum of money. The Blues initially paid Anderlecht $17 million (which was set to rise by another $10 million in add ons) for him in 2011, Lukaku has played 15 games for the club, and they have now sold him for $47 million. If that’s not good business, I don’t know what is.

Yes, Everton may have been the victims of over-spending here but they now own a talented player who has scored 33 goals in 71 games over the past two seasons in England. Finding someone who can turn flowing moves into goals is extremely hard, look at Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham. They have chucked hundreds of millions of dollars at forwards over the years and have failed nine times out of ten. Everton have faith in Lukaku and know what he can do. Can he now progress as a player by improving his first touch, visual awareness and being slightly more consistent? If he does, he could become one of the greatest strikers the PL has ever seen.

That’s why Everton have splashed the big bucks to get him on board. They’ve seen the potential, now it’s time for Lukaku to become the finished project and flourish.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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