By Ell Bretland
Like a scorned ex, Romelu Lukaku moved on and showed Chelsea exactly what they were missing.
Now they are interested again and, with a cheeky wink, he’s flirting back, determined to make the most of their advances.
With no thought for Everton, he’s publicly courted the affections of his former side and they are now taking notice.
It seems the love affair between the Toffees and their star striker, which has seemingly been one way from the start, will be over this summer. Lukaku’s long goodbye looks like it could be for real this time around.
As the saying goes, nice guys finish last and so reportedly making a ‘promise’ that he could leave for the right price played into his hands and is one of a few failings in our desire to keep our record Premier League goalscorer.
While Lukaku’s conduct and willingness to downright disrespect Everton as he constantly itches for a move is frustrating for us supporters, little blame should now go to an ambitious player boasting scoring stats which back his claims he should be playing for the best teams in Europe.
Should Lukaku leave, and it looks likely, the blame is solely on Everton. It is their own fault for not doing enough. Quickly enough. And that is a crying shame for a loyal and passionate fanbase who again, seemingly have to wave goodbye to a great player.
Having done so well to land him in a £28million deal in 2014, it is apparent Everton rested on their laurels somewhat and didn’t sign sufficient back up or significantlyimprove the squad elsewhere.
For this summer and last, there are no excuses. Lack of resources cannot be used as a valid reason for another big name departure.
In the past Rooney, Lescott, Arteta were all sold to balance books. Last year, John Stones left in what was a good move for Everton. Now, we do not need to sell to buy.
In persuading Ronald Koeman to join us as manager, we claimed we wanted top four but, really, we have given little reason to convince Lukaku we can achieve it.
For starters, we may have offered him a deal to make him the highest paid player in our history but the figure of £140,000-a-week is paltry in the grand scheme of the current astronomical figures on offer at other top clubs – the clubs Everton hope to compete with despite offering vastly inferior wages.
It can be assumed that Lukaku’s currency is trophies, such is his desire for silverware, but a player of his standing will command a much larger salary and Everton surely know that?
It is a worry, if this is the offer for our star name, will the club really offer more to players they hope to sign this summer? It’s unlikely.
Down at Crystal Palace, strugglers last season and certainly not a big Premier League name, they are paying Wilfried Zaha six figures. At Arsenal meanwhile, Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil are holding out for £300,000, more than double the figure of what is on the table for Lukaku.
You may not think Lukaku is worth £200,000 plus, but these are the absurd fees now needed to attract the best players. These are the amounts they demand because they themselves are in demand.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Lukaku is laughing at the wages on offer when he is chilling round at Paul Pogba’s house, a player who cost Manchester United £89million last summer and earns a mega salary.
Many football fans laughed at the amount spent but the Red Devils got their man and there in lies the point. Everton, not on the scale of £89m, will now have to pay silly money if they are to land the players capable of pushing us on.
Solely relying on Steve Walsh to repeat his Leicester miracle by unearthing hidden gems or following the way of Tottenham – who do not pay extraordinary wages but who themselves could lose vital players this summer for that very reason despite their recent success – is a gamble. It could pay off but it is still a risk which requires much time.
I wrote last year that despite billionaire Farhad Moshiri’s involvement in the club, Everton would still look for astute buys and not spend extortionate amounts. However, I accept that is not an option now and only spending big enables the process for real sustained glory. Financial Fair Play, a sticking point of course, is not as much of a restriction this summer.
Refusing to look beyond ‘realistic targets’ for decent fees won’t see the progress needed to finish higher than 7th. Huge bids need to be made and eye-watering offers must be handed out in wages for real quality. Otherwise, we stay in no man’s land, far superior to the rest but still trailing.
The galling issue though is – this, improving the team to really challenge, should have been achieved last summer to boost the chances of keeping Lukaku.
Some will say he was set on a return to Chelsea regardless but our attempts to persuade him Everton is the best place for him have been feeble to say the least.
The man himself revealed Everton have missed out on attainable targets and this clearly irked him. Ending up with Enner Valencia on deadline day – he admittedly won fans over by working hard and having a positive impact off the bench – didn’t inspire and he was clearly not a top target. His arrival certainly didn’t scream ‘ambition’ to Lukaku and the rest of the football world.
The money is there. From Premier League money to our owner, it’s there. We need to conjure a way to get better at convincing players to join and the best way is by offering silly money, unfortunately.
On social media, the fanbase looks to be split in two at the moment. There are those showing concern and angst at the prospect of another slow and fruitless window as Lukaku looks to engineer a move. The rest, rightly pointing out it is still the first week of June, are saying chill, convinced we will be sorted by September and ready for an assault on the top spots. Patience is the word often bandied about but when the six sides above us will no doubt make significant improvements, you can’t hang about.
For me, I’m in the first camp – quietly confident and optimistic but a little anxious as past evidence of the last two windows suggests we have reason to have doubts.
However, my main frustration is not about this summer but rather the potential effect last year could already have had on our business this time around.
As stated, a proper squad build, assembled to last the full 38 game distance in the hunt for the top four during the season just gone, would have given us a much better hand in convincing Lukaku to stay put.
We were not too far off 4th place in the end and one wonders whether it could have been achieved with a more productive January. What an achievement and statement that would have been in only Moshiri’s first full season at Everton.
However, we sold ourselves short in both transfer windows and for that reason, it now looks like our top scorer will be sold too.
Losing Lukaku would be hugely damaging for the project. Everton are a hard sell for those players wanting Champions League football as it is. It becomes 100 times more difficult to convince them of our aims if our main striker has elected to leave and for that reason signings must now be made before his potential exit.
Meanwhile, the contract wrangle with boyhood Blue Ross Barkley continues to linger, further affecting the outside perception of the club. These things must be sorted and quick, our plans should not be shrouded in uncertainty.
From a fan point of view, past failings have left us all resigned to losing one of our best players of the Premier League era, while any talk of signing quality replacements is met with too much depressing realism. It is expected though and so the club must first show ambition so that we the supporters can follow.
Being a football fan is about hope and expectation, and how sad is it that, even with a mega rich backer, some of us are that used to being letdown during transfer season that we completely dismiss our chances of signing a big name.
Over the next three months, we should be shooting for the stars and bidding for the best players out there to show we mean business.
I would much rather be laughed at for making a bid for a player ‘out of our reach’ than to not make a move at all. We need to show our ambition.
The first ‘marquee’ signing is the most significant and the rest then follow. We have to make that happen as Koeman enters his second season at the helm.
As is the Everton way, the club appreciate our support and recently wrote to every fan who attended an away game to thank them for their loyalty and dedication. A great gesture. They too, appreciate Lukaku’s plethora of goals.
Now though, is the time for action not words. If they really want to show us and our No 10 how much we are valued, how much they want to be successful and honour our motto, they have to give us a team capable of winning titles and trophies.
It may be too late to now keep Lukaku but going forward we must aim for the best and pay the going rate; paying more is likely what is needed. No excuses.
For if we don’t, we will be stuck in a cycle of 7th placed finishes as the nearly men and future Romelu Lukakus will continue to itch for pastures new.
We must now compete with the best at all costs and bridge that gap.
Lukaku’s future and the ramifications of him leaving Everton was just one of the talking points on our latest podcast. You can listen to is here.