He’s a big burly beast of a striker, he comes with proven Premier League pedigree and boasts a remarkable record. But is he the man for Manchester United?
The appropriately dubbed ‘silly season’ produces surprises and plot twists at every turn and the news that United have agree a £75 million fee with Everton for Romelu Lukaku certainly raised a few eyebrows.
Despite the links between the Premier League giants and the Belgian international all summer, it was Alvaro Morata’s proposed move to Old Trafford that dominated headlines where United were concerned.
Ever since Antoine Griezmann decided to stay with Atletico Madrid after their transfer ban was upheld, the Real Madrid striker emerged as United’s chief target albeit after enduring a little competition from the Andrea Belotti reports.
Now, out of the Merseyside blue, Lukaku’s transfer to United is all but sealed. The 24-year-old striker would of course be a massive coup, he is after all one of the most sought after young strikers, there’s no doubt about that. He’s proven in the Premier League and, at that age, few players in world football can boast a record that comes close to his.
However, this development has been met with plenty of bewilderment and that’s down to more reasons than one.
Jose Mourinho sold Lukaku while he was at Chelsea for £24 million and has somehow witnessed a growth in the striker so vast that it justifies spending over £50 million on top of that to be reunited with him?
United scored just once away to top six opposition last season and have opted to rectify that by bringing in a player who has scored just four times in his last 33 appearances against those teams?
Lukaku has not yet proved his worth as a big-game player. In fact, his scoring pattern is questionable as well, enjoying goal gluts against weaker opposition but going missing against more sophisticated defences. The notion that he is something of a flat-track bully does hold some water.
If it’s a quicker tempo United are moving towards, Lukaku may not be the ideal man to facilitate that. Physically speaking, he is deceptively quick. Last season he clocked a speed of 35km/h according to Opta, making him the fourth fastest striker in the Premier League behind Shane Long, Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy.
However, it’s his speed of thought that will come under scrutiny. Lukaku’s link-up play leaves much to be desired. A poor first touch is an unfortunate trait he’s been cursed with and can be particularly frustrating when good moves are undone by sloppy control on his part.
Lukaku receiving skills... pic.twitter.com/wcS3MUaz8j— The Analysts Eye (@TheAnalysisVids) September 12, 2016
Rene Meulensteen was Sir Alex Ferguson’s No2 during a time when the team played arguably the best football under the Scot. In an interview with talkSPORT earlier this year, the Dutchman claimed Lukaku would ‘fall short’ as a United player, should Mourinho opt for his services.
While appreciating his strength and prowess in front of goal, it’s the finer aspects of an elite striker’s game that concerned Meulensteen when discussing the Belgian.
“What he needs to develop definitely is his game on the ball, in terms of quick combinations with his team-mates. That is where he falls short.
“Yes, he would bring power, he would bring strength, but when you look over the years at the strikers United have had, does he fit in the same line of strikers? I don’t think so.”
Meulensteen’s concerns are well-founded. When you think about it, Morata is more likely the striker who would fit into the pre-determined parameters of a leading United striker.
He has no significant weakness, is a well-rounded player, consistent and clinical in front of goal and crucially, he’s experienced in terms of winning trophies. He’s amassed a total of 13 trophies at club level and has also won European Championships with Spain’s U-19 and U-21 sides, winning the Golden Boot on both occasions.
Morata is also a proven match-winner. Last season, his contributions won 13 points for Madrid in La Liga, only Cristiano Ronaldo (14) accounted for more. He’s only about six months older than Lukaku as well.
Nevertheless, there’s every chance that Everton’s highest Premier League scorer will develop and grow into the kind of striker worthy of spearheading United’s attack for years to come. He’s got all the raw materials and will have a fantastic coach to work with in Mourinho to mature into a more cunning and cultured striker.
He’s often been likened to Didier Drogba but while pace and brute force was a huge part of the Ivorian’s displays, there was an intelligence and finesse about him that put him among the Premier League’s elite.
Lukaku can already count himself among the best to have graced the league in terms of his numbers but stats don’t tell the whole story.
He will have plenty of time to justify that £75 million price tag but it won’t be easy. He may well find a tedious path ahead of him, with the media shining a light on his every shortcoming and fans berating him for every miscontrolled ball. But at least he’ll have Paul Pogba for company.
One of the most coveted strikers in Europe could be about to join one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Romelu Lukaku is edging closer to his big-money move to the Red Devils after Jose Mourinho’s men agreed a deal with Everton for the striker.
While we know quite a bit about the star’s goalscoring exploits in recent seasons, here are five things, inclusive of some stats, you may not know about the 24-year-old.
Does anything surprise you about Lukaku?
Lukaku has netted 85 goals in the Premier League (West Brom and Everton), that’s one more than Cristiano Ronaldo managed during his time at Old Trafford.
The Belgian has played fewer games (186) too than Ronaldo’s 196 in England.
In addition, in March 2017, Lukaku became only the fourth player to scored 80+ Premier League goals before the age of 24 (Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Robbie Fowler being the other three).
The former Liverpool defender turned Sky Sports pundit donned an Everton shirt for a video shoot with the striker, in which Lukaku showed his class (and younger legs – he is 16 years Carragher’s junior), to skin the Kop man and score past the goalkeeper.
We even had a bit of banter with the man himself, no not Lukaku, Carragher – over the incident.
I'm nearly 40!— Jamie Carragher (@Carra23) February 28, 2017
As well as being one of Europe’s top strikers, Lukaku is a dab hand at languages too.
The 23-year-old of course speaks Flemish (native language in Belgium) but can also speak Dutch, English, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
To top that, he apparently has an understanding of German too.
Jordan Lukaku, Romelu’s younger brother, plies his trade with Italian giants Lazio while their cousin, Boli Bolingoli-Mbombo, is a left-back for Rapid Vienna.
Interestingly, Lukaku’s dad, Roger Menama Lukaku, was a former professional player.
Although Lukaku’s spell at Stamford Bridge was disappointing, the Belgian would have learnt a lot from training alongside, and on rare occasions, playing on pitch with the Belgian.
The two strikers have been compared in recent years – owing much to their physical presence and goalscoring ability up front.
If Lukaku can achieve anything close to what Drogba did at Chelsea then he’s set for a good spell with United.
Manchester United have agreed a £75million deal for Everton striker Romelu Lukaku, Press Association Sport understands.
The 24-year-old appeared set to rejoin former club Chelsea this summer but it is understood he is now on the verge of linking up with the manager that sold him in 2014.
United boss Jose Mourinho has been desperate to bring in a striker this summer and a move for Lukaku is now close.
The Belgium international has been pursued quietly for months and is said to have been the club’s main target, with Chelsea’s interest helping to cover that up.
United have ended their interest in Real Madrid striker Alvaro Morata as a move for Lukaku edges closer, with the club hoping to get a deal over the line before heading to the United States on their pre-season tour.
Wayne Rooney looks increasingly unlikely to be on the plane this Sunday, with a return to boyhood club Everton edging closer – a move that is not understood to be connected to the Lukaku deal.
The video below takes a closer look at the Belgian as he nears a switch to United.