According to a story in The Daily Mirror, albeit without any quotes to support their assertion, Romelu Lukaku will stay at Everton this season.
It was thought the Belgian behemoth, who scored 18 Premier League goals and created a further six last season, would sign for former club Chelsea this summer, with a fee somewhere in the region of £70m mooted as his valuation.
Ronald Koeman, who has grown well accustomed to losing his main players after spending two years at Southampton, has stressed throughout pre-season that he didn’t want to sell the 23-year-old, but his comments also suggested he was aware that if a suitor put up the cash and the player pushed for a move, there wasn’t a lot he could do.
If The Mirror are to be believed, asking to leave is something Lukaku won’t be doing, and it’s difficult to criticise his decision if a return to Chelsea was his only possible destination.
The west Londoners initially bought him from Anderlecht as an 18-year-old, without any short-term intentions of giving him a run in the first team.
He rarely featured in his maiden season at Stamford Bridge and spent his second in the Premier League on loan at West Bromwich Albion, where he demonstrated his formidable talents, netting 17 goals in 35 outings.
Despite his impressive campaign in the West Midlands, Chelsea chose to loan him out again the following year, this time to Everton, where he bagged 15 in 31 league appearances. The decision was all the more dumbfounding as, while he rustled the net on the regular, Blues boss Jose Mourinho frequently bemoaned his side’s lack of firepower throughout 2013/14.
Instead of giving him the chance in the first team his two successful loan stints clearly deserved, Chelsea allowed Lukaku to leave permanently before the 2014/15 edition.
So having consistently undermined his ability to deliver at the highest level ever since they signed him, what’s changed to make the Belgian think it would be different if he went back?
Antonio Conte may now be in charge, but three different managers coached Lukaku across his Chelsea tenure and none placed any faith in him. Plus, the Italian, who looks likely to deploy one striker this season if his selection against West Ham United is anything to by, has already added one striker to the ranks in Michy Batshuayi and maintains that line-leader-in-chief, Diego Costa, won’t be sold.
Furthermore, the Blues don’t have Champions League football to entice players of the Belgium star’s calibre and, with the intense competition at the top of the Premier League, there’s no guarantee they’ll return to Europe’s top table next season.
Everton have shown ambition in the transfer market, shelling out £25m on Yannick Bolasie, while rumours of a bid for England goalkeeper Joe Hart are also doing the rounds. They’ve got one of most revered managers in the top-flight at the helm to boot and stand a realistic chance of competing for a top-four finish this term, which can be backed at 11/1.