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.

Sky Blue’s Sam Kerr named NWSL league MVP for 2017

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CHICAGO (AP) Sky Blue FC forward Sam Kerr has been named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player for this season.

Kerr, a standout on the Australian national team, had a league-record 17 goals and became the league’s fifth Golden Boot winner to also be named MVP.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

She became the first NWSL player to score four goals in a game on Aug. 19 against the Seattle Reign. Kerr rallied Sky Blue from a 3-goal deficit to beat the Reign 5-4.

Kerr’s award was announced Friday. The league had earlier announced the season’s other award winners: North Carolina’s Abby Dahlkemper was named Defender of the Year, teammate Ashley Hatch was named Rookie of the Year, Portland’s Adrianna Franch was named Goalkeeper of the Year and the Thorns’ Mark Parsons was named Coach of the Year.

The Mendy Effect: Pep praises injured back

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Full back Benjamin Mendy cost Pep Guardiola and Manchester City $68 million, but perhaps he’ll be just as valuable as a very expensive sports psychologist.

The “Shark Team” member was amusing on social media even before his ACL injury sent him to the sidelines until at least April, but he’s become a must-follow Twitter fixture with his in-game messages (See some of his work below).

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

City faces Burnley at 10 a.m. ET Saturday (Watch live on CNBC and online via NBCSports.com).

It’s fairly clear his act has translated in private, too, as apparently Mendy is just as good in group messages (Let us in, Pep. We won’t tell anyone). From ManCity.com:

“Usually, players who are out for a long time with injury are sad. They sometimes train apart and feel isolated.

“Mendy decided to be present. He is communicating on social media, WhatsApp and he calls his teammates and messages me. He is going to be so important outside the pitch because people like him make the atmosphere much better.”

It’s not surprising for anyone who’s been following the former Le Havre, Marseille and Monaco man.

Keep in mind, these Tweets below are from the last few days alone!

Ozil to Manchester United?!? Wenger reacts to gossip

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Sometimes, even the biggest Arsene Wenger detractors have to feel for the guy.

Coming off a thrilling late win in Serbia, one that saw Olivier Giroud cap off a team goal straight out of the creative Wenger playbook, the manager should’ve been discussing how to stretch those good vibes into this weekend’s visit to Goodison Park.

[ MORE: MLS Decision Day preview ]

Yet no. Instead of talking about how the Gunners would respect the struggling Toffees, Wenger had to address speculation from several outlets claiming Mesut Ozil would move to Manchester United, perhaps as soon as January.

Feeling it? No, no Wenger was not feeling it. From Arsenal.com:

“We have to deal with all kinds of speculation when the players are at the end of their contracts. On the other hand, to be professional is to give 100 per cent as long as you are somewhere. For the rest, we came out many times and said that’s the situation. It [the media] can come out tomorrow and say that he extends his contract here. It will be exactly the same, it will not change anything. When you play the next game, commit 100 per cent. … When a player plays for Arsenal Football Club, his commitment cannot be linked with the length of his contract, it has just to be linked with the responsibility and the ambition he has to win the football game.”
Of course most big clubs have to deal with such drama on a year-to-year basis and, yes, having Ozil and Alexis Sanchez still in town was completely avoidable. But the idea that Ozil could leave, for free, to Manchester United? We’re sure Gooners the world over will be thrilled with the gossip.

MLS Decision Day preview: Much at stake

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Four teams can claim a Western Conference second round berth, while four more can earn a valuable first-round bye in the East.

Yep, there’s plenty to play for beyond the West’s final playoff spot Sunday during Major League Soccer’s Decision Day, when every team will take the pitch for 4 p.m. ET kickoffs.

[ MORE: Conte feels pressure ]

Here’s what we do know regarding the playoffs:

  1. Supporters’ Shield winning Toronto FC gets a first round bye, while No. 6 seed New York Red Bulls are headed to the road for a first round playoff
  2. New England, Montreal, Philadelphia, Orlando, DC, Minnesota, Colorado, and LA will not make the playoffs
  3. Full stop.

So, yes, this will be fun.

First, let’s look at the Eastern Conference Standings ahead of Sunday’s extravaganza:

Eastern Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
Toronto FC 33 20 8 5 72 35 37 13-3-1 7-5-4 68
x – New York City FC 33 16 8 9 54 41 13 10-4-2 6-4-7 56
x – Chicago 33 16 7 10 61 44 17 12-3-2 4-4-8 55
x – Atlanta 33 15 9 9 68 38 30 11-2-3 4-7-6 54
x – Columbus 33 16 5 12 51 47 4 12-2-3 4-3-9 53
x – New York 33 13 8 12 51 46 5 9-6-2 4-2-10 47

— New York City FC controls its bye destiny, though Columbus could join them on 56 points and would pass them on tiebreakers (wins).

— If that happens, Chicago could claim the second bye with a win or draw in Houston (The Fire owns the goal differential tiebreaker).

— If New York City and Chicago lose or draw, Atlanta could finish second with a home win over TFC.

— Columbus can finish second with a win and non-wins for Chicago and Atlanta.

Western Conference
Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
x – Vancouver 33 15 7 11 49 47 2 9-5-3 6-2-8 52
x – Portland 33 14 8 11 58 49 9 10-4-2 4-4-9 50
x – Seattle 33 13 11 9 49 39 10 10-5-1 3-6-8 50
x – Sporting KC 33 12 13 8 39 27 12 10-6-1 2-7-7 49
x – Houston 33 12 11 10 54 45 9 11-4-1 1-7-9 47
San Jose 33 12 7 14 36 58 -22 9-5-2 3-2-12 43
FC Dallas 33 10 13 10 43 47 -4 7-7-2 3-6-8 43
Real Salt Lake 33 12 6 15 47 54 -7 8-4-4 4-2-11 42

Byes

— Vancouver finishes first with a win or draw at Portland. The ‘Caps could finish as low as third with a loss to Portland and a Seattle win versus Colorado.

— Portland finishes first — and wins the Cascadia Cup — with a win over visiting Vancouver.

— Seattle can claim a first round bye with a win over visiting Colorado and a Vancouver win over Portland.

— Sporting KC can finish second with a win at Real Salt Lake and non-wins for Portland and Seattle.

Final playoff spot

— San Jose claims the sixth seed with a home win over Minnesota. They can also finish sixth with a draw joined by non-wins for FC Dallas at home to LA and Real Salt Lake at home versus SKC.

— FC Dallas claims the sixth seed with a win over LA and a San Jose draw or loss versus Minnesota. FCD gets sixth with a draw, and a San Jose loss coupled with a RSL loss or draw versus SKC.

—  Real Salt Lake gets sixth with a win over SKC, and non-wins from San Jose and Dallas. RSL could also get sixth with a draw and losses for San Jose and Dallas.

(Photo by Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)

Schedule
FC Dallas vs. LA Galaxy
DC United vs. New York Red Bulls
San Jose vs. Minnesota United
Real Salt Lake vs. Sporting KC
Houston vs. Chicago
Seattle vs. Colorado
Philadelphia vs. Orlando City
Portland vs. Vancouver
Montreal vs. New England
New York City vs. Columbus
Atlanta vs. Toronto

Predictions

— NYCFC hangs on for a draw against Columbus, earning a bye, leaving Chicago to host New York Red Bulls and Atlanta off to Columbus for the first round of the playoffs (We have Toronto beating Atlanta on Sunday).

— Vancouver and Portland draw, while Seattle beats Colorado. The ‘Caps and Sounders get byes, while Seattle takes back the Cascadia Cup.

— San Jose beats Minnesota, gaining the West’s sixth seed. The Quakes head to Portland for the first round, while SKC hosts Houston.