How can we replace the irreplaceable? We can’t, not directly anyway. After his comments in the week questioning the future of the club and the ambition of it, there was speculation among the media as to whether Romelu Lukaku would be booed at Goodison Park on Saturday. I, however, didn’t speak to one Evertonian who was intent on doing so. There was an annoyance with the fact that he did an interview, but the content involved couldn’t really be argued with, especially when he mentioned his ambition was akin to what the fans desire.
Unlike Lukaku, us Evertonian’s can’t just leave and follow a club in the Champions League. Unfortunately, Lukaku can leave and join a club in the Champions League. The likelihood is that is exactly what he will do, whether it is this summer or the next. Evertonians still have that glimmer of hope, but it’s a faint one. He showed vs Hull, just as he has done all season, how good he is. It was proof, once again, that like-for-like, he is irreplaceable.
How many strikers in the world are at or above Lukaku’s level? Very few, and we couldn’t attract any of them as it stands. The money we receive from any Lukaku deal would have to be reinvested well into the squad. Some of that investment would have to be placed on finding the ‘new Lukaku’, someone who had the same profile as the Belgian did in 2013. Back then he was a raw striker full of potential, but clearly not ready for the biggest stage, he grew with Everton, but Everton haven’t grown fast enough with him.
In four years’ time the situation may be different, and a player of Lukaku’s current quality may be happy to stay. We’ll have a new stadium and hopefully be one of the contenders each year for the Champions League spots, maybe more. That would be 2021, and Lukaku would have turned 28, it’s too much of a gamble for a player of his quality to try and see Everton through to where we want to be. Finding a young striker who wouldn’t get regular game time at a Champions League club, but would with Everton. And one with huge potential, that’d be the ideal scenario, and that is what Lukaku was in 2013. It’s what we need to find again.
That kind of talent would leave us with a lot of spare change from a Lukaku transfer, and that surplus money could be put into improving the rest of the squad. There have been two big examples in recent time of clubs receiving huge transfer fees in Liverpool and Tottenham. Both made huge mistakes, Liverpool in overpaying for average players and Tottenham buying too many and completely destroying their team spirit. As far as the forwards went, Liverpool bought Balotelli and Tottenham Soldado, hopefully we can learn from those lessons.
Everton can replace Lukaku, it’s moments like this which is why the club spent a lot of money bringing Director of Football, Steve Walsh on-board. We won’t be able to get a striker as good this summer, everyone knows that, but what we can do is invest smartly and bring in players with huge potential and improve the squad as a whole.
The hope still remains that this is irrelevant, if we can convince Lukaku to stay, or if a club isn’t willing to pay the price, then we can make all efforts to make sure next season is an even better one. The club need to be prepared for Lukaku leaving however, and if that time comes, we just have to hope that Koeman and Walsh can being in players required to strengthen the squad.