Antonio Conte has been dealt another transfer blow, as one of his main targets committed his future to his current club.
The Italian manager wanted Romelu Lukaku to return to Stamford Bridge in a big money deal this summer, but could never reach a fee with Everton, despite the player seemingly willing to leave.
The Toffees wanted £75 million for their star striker, but despite weeks of negotiations, could not come to an agreement – even though Chelsea were willing to compensate them with players.
But, after Everton’s 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion at the weekend, Ronald Koeman has confirmed his striker’s desire to stay at Goodison Park for at least another season.
Writing in his column for Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, Koeman said:
Ten days before the transfer deadline he came into the manager’s office and said he was no longer leaving and had decided to stay at Everton.
His decision is the same value as a big money transfer. He is not only a good player but a fine person. He lives his football in the fashion that you would want a top footballer to.
It is great to work with him and I think he had seen that we want to engineer improvement at every corner. To develop him into a really top player is the challenge before me.
It’s no doubt that Lukaku staying is a huge boost for Everton, who now don’t have to spend some of the money they received for John Stones on a new striker.
But it’s more frustration for Conte, who has been chasing a new front man all summer.
He missed out on Alvaro Morata and others, and now Lukaku won’t be coming back to London – for this season at least.