Romelu Lukaku said he harboured no regrets or resentment over his time at Chelsea after making what Roberto Martínez described as “a real football statement” by joining Everton for a club-record £28m.
The 21-year-old signed a five-year contract with the Goodison Park club on Wednesday having realised “very quickly” during last season’s successful loan spell at Everton that he wished to continue his career under Martínez.
Lukaku joined Chelsea in an £18m-rated deal from Anderlecht three years ago but made only one Premier League start for the club he supported as a teenager before spending two seasons on loan at West Bromwich Albion and Everton.“In football you don’t have regrets,” said the Belgium international. “Sometimes choices are made. Mr Martínez will be one of the top managers in the world and to play under him now, and for such wonderful fans, is an honour. We have a lot of young players who want to be part of one of the best teams in England.
“I don’t have any regrets. I am very happy with the choices I’ve made. Sometimes things like this happen in football. Sometimes it’s not meant to be. Chelsea are a big club and when I arrived I was 18. I was very ambitious. They taught me how to be a professional, a work ethic and a winning mentality. It is a great football club. I wouldn’t say anything bad about that club but I didn’t want to on the bench for 10 years.”
The feeling appeared to be mutual. Lukaku revealed he informed his agent, not José Mourinho, of his wish to leave Chelsea permanently for Everton but, in an official club tweet, the Chelsea manager said: “Myself and Chelsea Football Club wishes Romelu well. He is a good kid.”
Lukaku flew into Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport by private jet having tweeted “Time to write a new chapter” while on board. He underwent a medical upon arrival on Merseyside, required after his World Cup exertions for Belgium, before being unveiled as Everton’s third summer signing at a press conference delayed for 100 minutes as Chelsea finalised the player’s release.
The 21-year-old scored 15 goals in 31 league appearances last season as his loan spell helped Everton record their highest points total of the Premier League era, 72, in Martínez’s debut campaign as manager.
“This is a real football statement,” the Everton manager said. “Money shouldn’t be the difference between being able to challenge or not. Everton has an incredible football history but to bring in a player like Rom took 12 months of planning. It excites me when I see the team we have. We really needed Rom at the club and the chairman and board have been exceptional in that respect. It is a key moment in that it makes it clear where our focus is set.
“Rom is potentially the best choice in world football as a No9. Over the next few years you will see Rom develop into a special talent but he needs to keep working and developing and keep his standards. I’m excited to see how far Rom can take us and we can take Rom.”
The striker’s prospects of finally securing a regular first-team role at Chelsea receded this summer when Mourinho signed Diego Costa from Atlético Madrid and Didier Drogba, Lukaku’s idol and ironically the man he was initially earmarked to replace.
Chelsea had wanted to extend Lukaku’s contract, which was due to expire in 2016, to protect their investment had the forward impressed on another season-long loan and entered the final 12 months of his deal next summer. However, the striker refused to discuss an extension and insisted on being sold permanently, with his preference being for Everton despite interest from Atlético, Wolfsburg and Juventus, if the alternative was to remain on the fringes of Mourinho’s first-team plans.
He took the unusual step of asking his former club, Anderlecht, for additional training after the World Cup to convince Chelsea of his determination to make an impact next season but the signing of Drogba effectively derailed that plan.
Lukaku leaves Chelsea without scoring a goal, albeit for a significant profit. Chelsea paid Anderlecht an initial £11m rising to £18m in 2011 but few of the add-ons will have been activated. Lukaku added: “For me it was a very quick decision. I knew I wanted to come back here [to Everton] very quickly. I’m 21 and I needed to be in a good team and where it felt right. Here I have the confidence of the whole technical staff and the trust of the supporters. I feel I belong here. I have a very good relationship with everyone at this club. This is where I want to grow.”
Everton secured Ross Barkley on a new four-year, £60,000-a-week contract on Tuesday. They have also have signed Gareth Barry and £4m Muhamed Besic, and their outlay on Lukaku obliterates their previous record transfer, the £15m paid to Standard Liege for Marouane Fellaini in 2008.
Southampton announced the signing of the Chelsea left-back Ryan Bertrand on a season-long loan. It is understood Ronald Koeman’s club have the option to buy Bertrand outright next summer. Bertrand has been with the Blues since 2006 but has found action hard to come by, spending last season on loan at Aston Villa.