After bolstering his midfield with the signings of Gareth Barry and Muhamed Besic, Roberto Martinez’ third signing of the summer was a real statement of intent. The Everton boss broke the club’s transfer record fee by snapping up Romelu Lukaku for £28m from Chelsea, with the 21-year-old arriving at Goodison on a five-year contract:
Having acquired the young Belgian on loan last term, Martinez was delighted to bring Lukaku to Merseyside on a full-time basis:
“Welcoming Romelu Lukaku back to Everton on a permanent basis is the news that all Evertonians wanted to hear. We know that Romelu is still a young man and the potential that he has is quite unique, and we are desperate to see him enjoying his football and to watch him grow as footballer in the years to come. The arrival of Rom is more than just a signing, it’s the fruition of a lot of hard work to get the player we wanted. This is a big moment for Everton’s history and the perfect way of getting the squad ready for the start of the season.”
A product of the Anderlecht youth academy, Lukaku made his first-team debut back in May 2009, less than two weeks after his sixteenth birthday. Despite his tender years, the striker was quickly installed as a regular the following season and, taking the Belgian top-flight by storm, racked up 15 goals and five assists in 25 appearances. The following year Lukaku maintained his predatory instincts, producing 16 goals and seven assists in 37 games, including play-off matches.
After scoring twice in two league appearances at the start of the 2011/12 campaign, the six foot three forward was snapped up by Chelsea before the closure of the summer transfer window. Lukaku found it impossible to establish a place in the first-team, though; he was handed just a single start in the league, with a further seven appearances coming courtesy of the bench.
Farmed out on loan to West Brom in 2012/13, his Premier league potential was all too apparent – 17 goals and seven assists from 35 matches (20 starts and 15 sub appearances) fired the Baggies to an eighth place finish in Steve Clarke’s first season at the helm. Lukaku returned to the Bridge last summer but the arrival of Jose Mourinho made little difference to his chances of game time. After playing just 40 minutes of Chelsea’s first three league matches, he was snapped up by Martinez on a season-long loan deal and, with a security of starts as the Toffees’ first-choice forward guaranteed, proceeded to deliver 15 goals and six assists (or nine in FPL) over 31 league outings.
On the international stage, Lukaku turned out at youth level on 10 occasions for his country, scoring twice, and, after being handed his senior debut back in 2010, has netted 10 times in 33 appearances.
The arrival of big-money signing Diego Costa, allied with the return of old favourite Didier Drogba, made it perfectly clear that Mourinho was unwilling to place his faith in Lukaku for the season ahead. Despite allowing Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o to leave the club, the Blues also have Fernando Torres as a third forward and, as the Everton new boy acknowledged, he was simply not prepared to face another year on the Stamford Bridge periphery:
“Chelsea is a big club and sometimes it is difficult for young players to come through. I want to have a good career and I didn’t want to spend 10 years on the bench, I wanted to make the best out of every year. This is a club with a lot of ambition and the right place to be. You don’t have to have regrets in football. Choices have to be made. Roberto Martinez will be one of the top managers in the world and for me to work under him now is the best thing that could happen for me.”
The move is undoubtedly a positive one for Fantasy managers ahead of the new season and hands us a proven Premier League forward to consider at 9.0 in Fantasy Premier League and 8.8 in the Sky Sports game. At a time where many other options in the same price bracket have question marks over their security of starts, Lukaku’s game time under Martinez suggests he could, once again, be a solid option for our three-man frontlines. The Belgian started 29 of the 31 matches he was available for at Everton last term – his two sub appearances were due to a lack of match fitness on his debut and a return from a brief ankle injury. Whilst the club’s European duties could see the Toffees boss rotate in the attacking midfield areas, Martinez’ line-ups towards the end of last term shows that he simply has no like-for-like replacement for Lukaku as the lone striker and, injuries aside, it’s hard to see him being benched.
Despite scoring 32 times (and earning 327 FPL points) in his last two seasons in the Premier League, Lukaku is, for some, a frustrating Fantasy option. Mainly, that comes down to his inability to deliver big points hauls – only twice last term did he manage to net more than a single goal, suggesting that he’s yet to make the step to potential captaincy material. A lack of spot-kicks is certainly part of the issue and with first-choice Leighton Baines, at 7.0, delivering 160+ points from defence in three of his last four years at Goodison, the left-back has proven the better value option.
Nonetheless, Lukaku cannot be ignored. This time round, he’ll start the season in familiar surroundings, meaning there’ll be no need to adjust to new team-mates or tactics – potentially a crucial factor. For all the calls of inconsistency, Lukaku’s stats underline his capabilities. Despite playing 2,726 minutes last season, he was still sixth amongst forwards for both shots (101) and efforts inside the area (68), seventh for key passes (35) and, more significantly, second only to Luis Suarez for shots on target (45) in his first season on Merseyside. If he can improve last term’s conversion rate of 14.9%, Everton’s record signing could finally be set to step up as major Fantasy asset next time around.
With Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and United in the first seven fixtures, many are content to overlook the Toffees’ assets and search elsewhere until the schedule improves around Gameweek 8. It’s worth noting, though, that the Toffees beat three of those above-mentioned opponents last term and, having produced two goals against the likes of Man City and Liverpool, in addition to a goal and two assists against Arsenal, Lukaku has also shown that, under Martinez’ guidance, he’s more than capable of picking up points regardless of opponent.