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Man Utd? Chelsea? Raiola? Who's to blame for Lukaku's Everton U-turn?

COMMENT: So who's behind it? Who tapped up Romelu Lukaku, convincing him to pull out of Everton contract talks?

Was it Chelsea? Manchester United? Mino Raiola? Or even Mum? There's any number of suspects in this case.

Why, after Raiola, Lukaku's big talking agent, declared the deal "99.9 per cent" done in December, before just last month claiming the odds had stretched to "99.9999999 per cent" (no, really, he did say that), has everything been turned on it's head?

The obvious answer is... the market. At 23. After three consecutive seasons of 20 or more goals. And for a middling team. Lukaku, it can be argued, is the best striker for his age anywhere in the world. And with movement across Europe's biggest clubs regarding senior goalscorers, Raiola isn't having a lend of anyone when claiming his phone's been "running hot".

Jose Mourinho will be all over this. While we're scrambling for any type of source or hint about what Lukaku is thinking, the Manchester United manager will be right across it. With the once shunned Raiola now a regular visitor to Manchester - and boasting four players on United's books - he'll have kept Mourinho up-to-speed on all things Romelu. And they've made it no secret, with Raiola snapped at the Lowry Hotel last week - which is where Mourinho resides.

If Zlatan Ibrahimovic indeed can't be convinced to take up next year's option, Raiola has the perfect replacement. One client out and one in. It couldn't work out better for the Italian.

“Right now, I think the most suitable clubs for him are Bayern Munich or Manchester United," Dad Roger, a former Zaire international, said last year.

And with Paul Pogba a close friend, it only strengthens United's case that Lukaku will be pulling on Manchester red next season.

But Chelsea also have their ties. After all, Lukaku is a former Blue and there's a belief that the Belgian has a desire to reset his history at Stamford Bridge.

Where United has Pogba, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich can call on Didier Drogba to convince his former protégé.

"I still speak to Drogba," says Lukaku. "He gives me tips all the time. We have had a really special relationship since day one.

"When I arrived at Chelsea, they put me next to him in the dressing room so that is when it started and I saw what a top professional he was."

Of course, along with Drogba's influence, Chelsea can also offer Lukaku what United and Mourinho currently cannot - Champions League football. And with Chelsea having mind-blowing Chinese bids for Diego Costa on the table - with claims ranging from £80-150 million - there is likely to be a glaring vacancy waiting for someone to fill next season.

Beyond the Premier League, Bayern Munich, as Lukaku's father mentioned, are also in contact. With Thomas Muller battling for form and goals, Lukaku's emergence comes just at the right time. In Spain, Real Madrid's powerbrokers continue to be split over the value of Karim Benzema. And in France, PSG accept they need to replace Ibrahimovic twelve months on.

For Everton, with a new board and new manager, they've been hit by the perfect storm: a young striker in career best form, in the middle of new contract talks and the goalscoring positions of Europe's biggest clubs in a state of flux. Even Mum's getting in on the act, with claims a recent trip home to Belgium, where Rom dropped by his old club Anderlecht, was spent talking over Everton's proposal with his family. Mum Adolphine, who had actually convinced Rom to initially move to Everton, feels now is the time for the next step in his career, or so it's believed inside Goodison.

However, there's also a belief that the impasse could yet be broken.

Last night, a club source, though admittedly not close to negotiations, told Trialfootball.com that Everton believe a breakthrough can be reached by reducing their initial demands of a £100 million buyout clause to £70 million. It does leave Everton vulnerable, but with no hint of a transfer demand coming from Lukaku's side of the table, everything is still being negotiated in good faith. It's also believed with the right sell-on clauses, Everton could yet earn near £100 million from any Lukaku sale.

And Everton fans have played their part. Lukaku was given a thunderous ovation before kickoff against Hull City on Saturday. And at the final whistle, after his two goal performance, the cheers were even louder.

Whatever happens. Wherever he goes. As things stand today, there's a determination on all sides for everything to be done in good faith. No-one needs to lose out in this deal.

The acceptance is it's the market. In football, these things will happen...


Just a quick glance at Romelu Lukaku's record this season is enough to realise why many inside his camp feel the time is right to move on from Everton.

His brace against Hull City took him to 21 Premier League goals this term, the first Blue to achieve 20 or more goals in a top-flight season since Gary Lineker in 1985/86.

Last week, Lukaku also became the first Evertonian since Bob Latchford to score 20 or more goals (in all competitions) for three consecutive seasons.

On Saturday, he emulated Latchford's feat of becoming the first Everton player to score in seven consecutive home games.

And if he does leave this summer, Lukaku will do so as Everton's all-time leading Premier League goalscorer, having knocked Duncan Ferguson off his perch earlier this month.

Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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