London (AFP) – Belgian international striker Romelu Lukaku is joining Manchester United for a reported £75million ($97m, 85.5m euros), a record fee between British clubs, after a deal waa agreed with Everton on Saturday.
The 24-year-old’s signing — which the BBC says includes £15m in add-ons — represents a coup for United and their manager Jose Mourinho whose former club Chelsea had earmarked him as their top striking target for the close season.
Going in the opposite direction could well be United and England record goalscorer Wayne Rooney, who was caught on camera by Sky Sports arriving at Finch Farm the Everton training centre on Saturday afternoon.
According to press reports the 31-year-old is willing to take a cut in his £13million a year wages to return to his first club, but with the promise of more first team football than at United last year.
There are conflicting reports as to whether he would be a makeweight in the Lukaku deal with the BBC claiming he isn’t and will be let go for free and other media outlets suggesting that United might want a fee of £10m for the one year remaining on his contract.
It brings Mourinho and Lukaku back together again as the Portuguese manager in his second spell as Chelsea manager had sold him to Everton in 2014 for £28million.
United said in a statement it was “delighted to announce a fee has been agreed with Everton for the transfer of Romelu Lukaku, subject to a medical & personal terms.
“A further announcement will be made in due course,” added United.
Lukaku, who is reported to have been offered wages of over £200,000 a week by United, should have returned to England on Thursday for pre-season training with Everton but instead was pictured training with his close friend and the most expensive player in the world, United midfielder Paul Pogba, who he is on holiday with in Los Angeles.
United are due in Los Angeles this weekend for a pre-season tour.
According to British media reports the decisive factor in Lukaku’s head being turned towards United and not a return to the club he idolised as a schoolboy Chelsea were Pogba and their agent Mino Raiola.
– ‘Most lucrative contract offer’ –
Raiola did extremely well out of United last year making an estimated £40m from Pogba’s transfer from Juventus alone while stablemates Henrykh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic also joined the ‘Red Devils’.
Chelsea reportedly baulked at paying Raiola’s fee for Lukaku’s transfer although they had made a similar offer for the player.
Ibrahimovic’s long-term injury suffered in a Europa League match last season and the fading powers of Rooney have made the capture of a top striker imperative for Mourinho.
Apparent efforts to sign Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata came to nothing leading United to switch their attention to Lukaku.
Ironically Chelsea may now need to beat a path to Real’s door to try and secure Morata’s services.
Conte is not reported to be angry with the Chelsea board but sources have told the British media he feels betrayed by Lukaku especially as he had held several discussions with him since the end of the season.
The Italian coach and his backroom staff are yet to sign the new four year contracts they were offered at the end of the campaign.
Everton — who have spent freely in the close season — are believed to have hoped to sell Lukaku for closer to £100m which would have made him the world’s most expensive player bettering the £89m that United spent on Pogba last year.
As it is, the deal could smash the record for a transfer fee between British clubs — the record is the £50m paid by Chelsea to Liverpool for Fernando Torres in 2011 — and register as the joint-fifth most expensive player of all time.
Lukaku, who scored 53 Premier League goals in 110 appearances for the club since his permanent move, declined the most lucrative contract offer in Everton’s history at the end of last season, declaring he wished to play at a higher level.