Former Everton striker Graeme Stuart believes the return of Romelu Lukaku can push the side into the Premier League’s top four, following the striker’s club record £28 million move from Chelsea.
Lukaku spent the previous campaign on loan at Everton, scoring 15 goals in 31 games to help the club to an impressive fifth-place finish in Roberto Martinez’s first season in charge.
Signing a five-year deal at Goodison Park, Stuart has labelled the 21-year-old’s permanent acquisition a huge statement to their rivals and is confident that it will spur the club on to greater things.
‘It’s a magnificent statement from the football club. It’s the signing that the Evertonians were desperate for,’ he told Sky Sports News.
‘They’ve been given their wish now and great credit must be given to Bill Kenwright the chairman for coming up with the money again, and obviously to Roberto for being capable of attracting the likes of Lukaku.
‘We had a terrific season last year. We’re that close to getting into the top four, so this is a really huge statement to all supporters and rivals out there that Everton are here and we mean business.’
One of the hottest prospects in football at the time of signing from Anderlecht for £18 million in August 2011, aged 18, Lukaku appeared in just 15 games for Chelsea over the next three seasons, but would net 32 times in 66 league appearances during successive season-long loan spells at West Bromwich Albion and Everton.
However, with the recent £32 million addition of Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa deeming him expendable under Jose Mourinho, the Belgian had looked set to leave Stamford Bridge at some point during this transfer window, the Toffees stumping up a fee which breaks their previous record of £15 million paid for international teammate Marouane Fellaini in 2008.
Beating off reported interest from several major European sides, including Juventus and Wolfsburg, Lukaku’s signature is another coup for Martinez’s side in the transfer market this summer, having already sealed the permanent signing of Manchester City’s Gareth Barry, as well as £4 million Bosnia and Herzegovina international Muhamed Besic from Hungarian outfit Ferencvaros.
Everton still face a tough task bettering 2013-14’s surprise finish but, with more additions expected before the start of the season, one wouldn’t to bet against them exceeding expectations again.