Everton completed the club-record signing of Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku on Wednesday, making the deal for the former Chelsea man permanent after he spent last season on loan with the Goodison Park club.
Per BBC Sport, Everton have paid £28 million for Lukaku's services, signing him on a five-year deal. With the Toffees running close to a top-four finish last season, they were naturally keen to bring back the man who spearheaded their attack for most of the campaign.
It's a sign that Everton are intent on helping manager Roberto Martinez fulfil his Champions League promise, but the Belgian forward still needs to further improve his game to be considered one of the top forwards in the league—and even more so now, since Everton's team and game plan will naturally be built around his capabilities.
In the last two seasons, Lukaku has scored 32 goals in the EPL. Only Suarez (54) and RVP (38) have scored more in that period.— Squawka Dave (@SquawkaDave) July 30, 2014
If ever any proof was needed of the landscape-changing effects that the new Premier League television deal has had on top-flight clubs, this deal is it. Previously, Everton rarely looked like breaking their previous record signing: £15 million for Marouane Fellaini in 2008.
They have now almost doubled that figure, going fairly close to local rivals Liverpool's £35 million record from 2011.
Is it the Europa League money for the coming season that has allowed this extra expenditure? Hardly. Sevilla, the winners of last season's competition, received just €14.6 million in prize money as per UEFA.com. Compare that to FC Copenhagen, who finished bottom of the Champions League Group B and still raked in €21.4 million.
No, it is the Premier League TV rights that have enabled Everton to splash out so extravagantly; a gamble on their part to put most of their funds and attention toward this particular deal perhaps, but also an indication of the confidence and planning on their part that Lukaku is exactly the right striker to shape the next few years for the team.
Nobody doubts Lukaku's ability, and his goalscoring record at 21 years of age is impressive.
Romelu Lukaku's goal record to the age of 21 is equal with Sergio Agüero and 50 goals better than Ronaldo. pic.twitter.com/XCJ39RBwrV— Uber Football Fact (@UberFootFact) July 30, 2014
His 15 league goals last term arrived in 31 games, but they came in clusters. One stretch saw him score just once in 10 games; before his final-day goal against Hull City, he had only managed one in the previous six games.
It's manageable if the team has plenty of scorers contributing around him and depth in the forward line, but Everton aren't exactly stacked in either regard. Kevin Mirallas was their second-highest scorer in the league last season with eight, while Arouna Kone, their only other natural striker, missed most of the campaign through injury.
The powerful Belgian needs to find ways to put more into his own performances when the team is struggling to make a breakthrough, taking defenders out of the reckoning to allow others to step up more frequently when his own penalty box prowess is letting him down.
In terms of individual improvement coaching, there aren't many better managers in the Premier League than Roberto Martinez.
The Spaniard clearly feels he has not only the right striker to lead his team's line, but also a player who he can work with and gradually improve over the course of the coming campaigns. The boss himself alluded to as much, as per BBC Sport:
This signing is not just important for this season. It is a significant day in the history of this football club. 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.
Martinez will not only make technical and mental improvements to Lukaku's game, but also tactical ones; his use of Lukaku from the right flank in certain fixtures at the end of last season was just one indication of how he will make use of the player's traits to help the team in any given game.
Everton have signed a player for a new club record and will go into the season with belief they can at least match last season's achievements, but make no mistake that they hope Lukaku, like the rest of the team, can grow and improve to eventually make another push for a Champions League-place finish.
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