What Next for Lukaku and Everton?

How optimistic would the average Everton fan need to be to think that Romelu Lukaku is going to stay at the club for another season? Very optimistic, would be the short answer to that, with even the arrival of a wealthy and ambitious new owner in the person of Farhad Moshiri, not to mention new manager Ronald Koeman, probably not being enough to persuade the striker to stay.

Clearly it would be a blow to Everton to lose a player who scored 25 goals during what was a less than vintage season in 201-16, but the 23 year old is on the record as stating his desire to move on, being quoted in no less an organ than the Daily Star as saying "I'm at a point where I have to make a good career choice We have a new investor at Everton and out of courtesy I will listen to what he has to say. But I have my own ideas in mind."

On his way

That sounds pretty much like that tried and tested football cliché, a ‘come and get me’ plea, although it’s not clear exactly who Lukaku is busy fluttering his eyelashes and smiling coquettishly at. One persistent rumour has been a return to Chelsea and the chance to work with new manager Antonio Conte, although the fact that he’s professed a desire to feature in the Champions League may well mean other suitors are better placed. His own father Roger Lukaku, no less, gave an interview back in March in which he claimed that it was time for his son to move, and that there had been interest from the likes of Atletico Madrid and Juventus.

For the record, Lukaku senior’s advice was that his son should opt for Manchester United or Bayern Munich, which begs the question – with parents like that, who needs an agent? In what may or may not come as disappointing news to Lukaku and his dad, the favourites to sign him at the moment seem to be Italian champions Juventus, who may well need to find a replacement for Alvaro Morata.

If, as seems likely, Lukaku does leave then the question becomes who exactly Koeman is going to want to bring in to replace him. In the normal run of things it might be expected that he’d take a few of his favourite Southampton players with him, with Graziano Pelle, the leading scorer during Italy’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, being the prime target. Rumour has it, however, that the protracted negotiations between Everton and Southampton over the future of Koeman, rather than hinging upon the issue of the fee or other contractual discussions, were based mainly around Southampton seeking assurances that Koeman wouldn’t be coming back with an extensive shopping list and the new Everton owners’ cheque book. If that is the case then Koeman is going to have to look further afield, with a budget bolstered by the presumably sizeable transfer fee they’ll be demanding for Lukaku.

Who comes in

The names mentioned so far include ex United star Luis Nani, although Koeman’s reputation as something a disciplinarian (hence it being unlikely that Sadio Mane will follow him to Everton, even with Southampton’s blessing) might make the somewhat erratic Portugese star a slight gamble. As many Manchester United fans will attest, his time at the club tended to seem him vacillating wildly between almost Ronaldo-esque levels of brilliance and matches in which he seemed to spend 90 minutes shooting from 35 yards and hitting the corner flag.

Another player who was being linked with Everton before Koeman took over as manager is Barcelona winger Cristian Tello a 24 year old who has spent the last two seasons on loan at Porto and Fiorentina and who is also apparently being pursued by Stoke, which would seem to prove that being not quite good enough to break into the Barcelona team means being good enough to walk into the bulk of Premiership teams outside the top four.

Another player who has been linked to Everton for a few transfer windows is Ukrainian star Andriy Yarmolenko, although the (non) performance of the 26 year old Dynamo Kiev player during the Ukraine’s opening Euro 2016 match against Germany saw large numbers of Everton fans taking to social media to say thanks, but no thanks.