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.
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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.
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.