Spurs interested in Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku
Tottenham say they are only looking to ‘strengthen key areas’ this summer
Everton’s Romelu Lukaku (left) scores past Newcastle United’s goalkeeper Tim Krull at St James’s Park. Photograph: Nigel Roddis / Reuters
Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke was also been prominent on their list of centre-forward targets, though that may well have changed today after the Belgium international snapped his Achilles in training and was ruled out for a “minimum of six months”.
“It’s a terrible blow both for Christian and for the Club,” said Villa manager Paul Lambert. “He will miss the rest of the season, obviously, and also the World Cup. But he’ll work hard because that’s what he does and he’ll come back for us stronger than ever next season.”
Lukaku’s agent Christophe Henrotay has said that he has spoken to the Tottenham chairman, Daniel Levy about the possibility of his client moving to White Hart Lane, although Everton, with whom the Belgium striker is currently on a season-long loan, appear to be at the front of the queue for his signature.
Lukaku has thrived under Roberto Martinez at Goodison Park, scoring 12 goals in 24 Premier League appearances to help Everton’s Champions League challenge, and the club would take a bold step towards a top-four finish if they could beat Arsenal at home on Sunday. Lukaku’s ambition is to play Champions League football; Everton want him, regardless.
“I’m looking for a club for Romelu,” Henrotay said. “And yes, I’ve talked to Daniel Levy once, but that doesn’t mean Romelu will definitely join Spurs. That’s not a talking point at this moment.
“There aren’t 20 teams that can afford to buy Romelu. He won’t go from Everton to, let’s say, Swansea. There’s also a difference between Everton that plays against relegation and an Everton that fights for European football.”
Benteke, Lukaku’s Belgium team-mate, had drawn admiring glances from Tottenham since he found his feet at Villa in the early part of last season, following his £7m (€8.45m) move from Genk. He was heavily linked with a move to White Hart Lane last summer having put in an official transfer request. However, in July he withdrew the request and signed an improved four-year deal.
André Villas-Boas sent scouts to watch the striker and Tottenham’s then manager spoke about how the Belgian’s powerful style fitted with English football.
Villas-Boas has since left and there is no guarantee that his replacement Tim Sherwood will remain in charge next season, given Levy’s interest in Louis van Gaal, the Holland manager, and the erratic nature of recent results. The team have taken 13 points from the last available 30.
But Tottenham, who host Sunderland on Monday, have continued to monitor Benteke as they attempt to strengthen up front. Levy said on Wednesday that he would “not look to a summer of major upheaval but rather to strengthen in key areas”, and centre-forward is one such position.
When Levy sanctioned the departure of Jermain Defoe to Toronto at the end of February, he left the squad with only two established strikers – Emmanuel Adebayor and Roberto Soldado – plus the 20-year-old Harry Kane, in whom Sherwood has shown faith.
Benteke’s numbers have not been as strong this season. He scored 23 times in his first campaign in English football (19 in the league) while he has so far managed 11, with 10 of them coming in the league. But, as with Lukaku, he would command a value on the market in excess of £20m (€24.15m). Villa would resist any attempts from rival clubs to buy him.
Lukaku arrived at Chelsea in August 2011 from Anderlecht in a deal that was initially worth £11m (€13.3m), with add-ons that could take the fee to £18m (€21.75m), and he was determined to make his mark at the club that he followed when he was younger. The 20-year-old’s affection for Chelsea was based, in no small measure, on his admiration for Didier Drogba.
But Lukaku struggled for opportunities in his first season at Stamford Bridge and, denied the chance to find a groove, his form suffered and he failed to score. He was loaned to West Bromwich Albion last season, where he scored 17 league goals and has also prospered at Everton but, despite José Mourinho’s expected clear-out of strikers this summer, Lukaku does not appear to have a future at his parent club.
Everton’s push to beat Tottenham to Lukaku this summer could be aided by the bad blood between Chelsea and Spurs at boardroom level. This dates to Levy’s refusal to entertain Chelsea’s offer for Luka Modric in 2011 and it was evident again last summer in the fight to sign Willian from Anzhi Makhachkala. Chelsea won and they revelled in snatching the player from under Tottenham’s noses.