Lumme guv’nor. They’ve only ruddy well gone and done it. Everton have stared at the dealer with twinkling Paul Newman eyes, took a drag on their cigar, smiled wryly and pushed all their chips across the table. They even patted their pockets down, pulled out their lucky £5 token and threw that on top of the pile too with a final plastic clack.
£28 million for Romelu Lukaku. Sheesh. Who knew they had it in them?
To be honest, shelling out that sort of dough seems a bit vulgar compared to last season’s get-it-from-the-catalogue-wear-it-for-the-wedding-and-send-it-back-remembering-to-wipe-off-the deoderant-marks strategy – like something Liverpool would do – but Roberto Martinez seems to know his onions and we now have some asset on our hands for, potentially, the next five years.
Ok, much of the business so far this summer has been about consolidating last season’s squad – the one that finished fifth during Manchester United’s worst season for about two decades – but you have to start somewhere, and tying down Lukaku, who is pivotal to the whole system Martinez employs, looks like the cornerstone of the whole ‘project’. Or ‘journey’, whichever you prefer.
If it wasn’t Lukaku then it had to be some other big bleeder who can run all day as well as play a bit of football, and really decent strikers who can play that often thankless role, but still have the composure to slot when opportunities do present themselves, are few and far between. And fellas who have seen it and done it in the Premier League, yet are still only 21-years-old, are even rarer still. Doubtless Martinez had alternatives then, and maybe a few who would have cost less, but as an overall package, weighing up the risk versus the reward, the Everton manager must have argued to the board that this was something of a ’no-brainer’.
Despite the mammoth price tag and the enormous amount of faith Martinez and Everton have put in Lukaku, he still remains far from the finished article. Unplayable when he’s running into space with the ball on his left peg, he needs to learn that there is plenty still to do when, well, he’s not running into space with the ball on his left peg. He has to work on the 9-5 shit that comes with being a centre-forward: wrestling with defenders, sacrificing a kick up the arse in return for a free-kick and generally being a nuisance when things aren’t going his way. It’s not glamorous but it’s about 50% of what earned Luis Suarez that humungo-transfer to Barcelona.
All in all though, it was a remarkable evening for Everton and testament to the atmosphere created by the manager, and his ability to sell his vision of the future, that a couple of the most highly-rated and ambitious young players in world football are keen to spend the next stage of their careers in royal blue.
Still, £28 million. Blimey.