Connect in the back of the net

Last week, Everton manager Ronald Koeman provided a unique moment of honest evaluation regarding the future of Romelu Lukaku, as the Dutchman asserted that the striker will have to leave Goodison Park to fulfill his potential.

“His potential is greater and higher than Everton as a final destination,” Koeman said in the Belgian newspaper HLN. “If Romelu was to play at Everton until the end of his career I know he has left something behind.”

That transparency was short lived.

Koeman has since made a reversal and claimed that his comments were taken out of context, saying that he was referring to Everton’s present status and the quote did not take into account the growth that the club is sure to experience.

“It is not to defend myself but you take the headline out of context. Of course what we like to show Romelu is that Everton will grow, we will be bigger and we will fight for titles,” said Koeman. “If you look now at Everton, and if Everton stays at this level, then of course it is not good that he finishes his career at Everton because he is one of the best strikers and he is still only 23.”

 

A consensus view

Despite Koeman’s more recent claims, his original statement is a view that even many of the most ardent Everton supporters must share.

The Belgian striker is only 23, but he has already become one of the most effective and imposing forwards in the Premier League.

This season alone, Lukaku has already has netted seven times in 10 matches, following up on last season’s campaign where he scored 18 times with seven assists.

Unless Everton manage to qualify for the Champions League, the club’s chances of holding onto Lukaku past the summer are slim. And with both Chelsea and Liverpool revitalized as title contenders this season, the top of the table has become even more congested.

 

Honesty appreciated

Koeman cannot be blamed for his reversal, as a manager admitting that a player deserves better than his club is a harsh truth that supporters, board members and teammates can find insulting.

At the risk of disrupting his team chemistry and fan favorability, Koeman was right to undo his claim of inferiority.

Some Everton supporters have since come forward to back Koeman’s initial insights, praising the manager’s honesty.

George McKane, a founding member of the Everton Supporters’ Trust, told BBC Sport, “It makes a pleasant change for someone to tell the truth,” adding, “What he’s saying is what a lot of Evertonians are thinking.”

Dave Kelly, chairman of supporters’ group Blue Union, took the opportunity to emphasize that the club’s owner must now demand high fees for Everton’s top players.

He also supported Lukaku, stating, “He should have ambition. Why should Romelu Lukaku have any responsibility to stay at Everton? He’s not an Evertonian.”

Koeman understandably retracted his statement, but it was a welcome change of pace from manager’s repeating the same prepared press statements.

Lukaku will most likely leave this coming summer, but manager acknowledging this sort of footballing reality is an infrequent occurrence.

 

Relief

At this point, Everton fans should be glad the club was initially able to sign Lukaku from Chelsea and then keep him at the club last summer amid reports that the Belgian had submitted a transfer request.

Was it odd for Koeman to admit the truth behind Lukaku’s future? Yes. Was it refreshing? Certainly.

 

Written by Matthew Schattner

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