After spending the previous two seasons out on loan at West Brom and Everton, scoring 32 goals in the process – only Van Persie and Suarez scored more – Romelu Lukaku has departed Stamford Bridge once again this summer, but on this occasion in a permanent deal.
Rumours have been flying around since before the start of the World Cup concerning the future of Lukaku with various of clubs being reportedly interested in the striker, such as Atletico Madrid and Wolfsbug. In the end, it is a return to Goodison Park for Lukaku, but how does the move weigh up for both Everton and Chelsea?
For the months that have preceded Mourinho’s decision to let Lukaku go out on loan again last summer, he has been met with criticism by neutrals for not fancying the Belgian striker given the issues Chelsea have had with their strike force for the last two seasons.
Lukaku’s performances during his loan spell were impressive overall, given his age and the jump in quality between his time playing for Anderlecht and being first choice in the Premier League, but there have been some areas that have meant other top clubs have resisted in pursuing the 21 year old.
Against teams that do not allow him any space and their midfield and defence sit deep, Lukaku can be ineffectual – this was a reason for his poor performances at the World Cup – as his game doesn’t involve lots of pressing of the defenders like Mourinho wants his strikers to do. Going to a club of Everton’s stature however, where they do not often come up against ‘defend at all costs’ mentalities, is perfect for him to develop upon this area of his game.
On the brighter side though, this is a massive signing for Everton in a number of ways. The signal it sends that they are now able and prepared to spend big for player could encourage other players to view Everton as the perfect club to join and keep the Merseyside club hanging onto the tails of the bigger clubs ahead of them. Making his 211th appearance before 21 and being joint with Sergio Aguero for the most goals scored by a 21 year old or younger (65) shows how good Lukaku can be when he gets to the peak age of his career.
As seen during his time at Everton last season, Lukaku possesses the intelligence to drop a little deeper and time his run perfectly when the ball is out and a number of his goals came from this – he scored 9 goals from clear cut chances, which also shows his prolific finishing when the opportunity presents itself, alongside the fact all 15 of his league goals came inside the box. His physical presence is also a benefit in both boxes – Lukaku won the most aerial duels for Everton last season (90).
In the short term, the decision to let him to depart may be justified, but in a few years when Chelsea will need a new strike force, Lukaku’s development could make them rue his departure. For Everton, they have slightly overpaid for the Belgian striker – not only is £28 million their record fee, but it is the most they have ever spent in a single transfer window –yet it signals more positive times since Martinez arrived at the club last summer and the excitement is constantly building at Goodison Park which will transfer to the pitch.