Martinez hopes for Lukaku stay
LIVERPOOL -- Everton’s long-term progression to becoming regular Champions League contenders is the key to persuading Romelu Lukaku to stay beyond the summer, according to manager Roberto Martinez.
The 20-year-old Belgium international striker, on a season-long loan from Chelsea, has been strongly linked with a permanent move to Tottenham.
Lukaku’s long-term future at Stamford Bridge looks uncertain, as Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is expected to revamp his strike force for next season.
Martinez is keen to keep Lukaku, although Everton would struggle to match the 25 million pounds fee that Tottenham are reportedly prepared to offer.
The Toffees -- lying fifth, one place and four points ahead of Spurs -- are currently in a stronger position to reach next season’s Champions League.
But Martinez believes that Everton need to show they are in a position to be Premier League top-four regulars to tempt Lukaku to stay.
He said: “The key is to have a club who keep improving and moving forward, and that allows a player to see himself being able to develop and fulfil his potential.
“I truly believe that Romelu’s found that experience so far. It’s very much exactly what he needed from a personal point of view, and I think the next seven games will be very important to see where the next chapter is for Romelu.
“It’s not about whether we get into the Champions League or not. It’s more about the focus of the club.
“We want to carry on growing. We want to be a club who look to get into the Champions League consistently. That’s very important for a young player who wants to fulfil his potential.
“Romelu has been an incredible asset for us, the same way that he has been a credit to his parent club.
“He’s been developing as a young man, and I think he’s fulfilling his potential, which I believe is huge, and all we want now is for him to concentrate on the next seven games.
“Whatever happens in the summer will be something good, because with the season he’s had, it can only be positive.”
There is also a question over the future of forward Gerard Deulofeu, whose season-long loan from Barcelona expires in the summer.
Deulofeu’s chances of returning to the Nou Camp increased on Wednesday when Barca were put under a 14-month transfer embargo by FIFA for breaking rules on the signing of international players under 18.
The Catalan giants can still sell players, but will not be able to bring anybody in until the summer of 2015 if an appeal against the decision fails.
That would reduce the likelihood of allowing players currently on the books to leave, including 20-year-old Deulofeu.
Martinez said: “Well, at the moment, it doesn’t affect things at all, because I don’t think the situation has been finalised.
“Barcelona are going to appeal, and see whether that takes away the transfer embargo.
“I’m sure that once the decision is final, it’s going to have some sort of bearing on how they assemble the squad, but at the moment, it has no effect on us at all.”