Football: Early greeting from Lukaku as Belgian spotted with Pogba in LA

Romelu Lukaku (left) at a training session with Manchester United's Paul Pogba in Los Angeles - a strong indication that he is ready to join the club this summer.
Romelu Lukaku (left) at a training session with Manchester United's Paul Pogba in Los Angeles - a strong indication that he is ready to join the club this summer.PHOTO: INSTAGRAM/PAULPOGBA

Belgian spotted with United's Paul Pogba in LA ahead of club's pre-season tour

LONDON • Manchester United's bid to sign Everton's Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku for a record fee between British football clubs of £75 million (S$133.4 million) looked nearer to completion yesterday as photos emerged of him training with Paul Pogba.

The 24-year-old was pictured on United midfielder Pogba's Instagram account training with his close friend - who has the same agent, Mino Raiola - in Los Angeles where they are on holiday together.

With United due in Los Angeles tomorrow to start a pre-season tour, the images supply further indications that Lukaku is bound for Old Trafford.

They also suggest that English Premier League champions Chelsea are losing the race to sign their main transfer target - manager Antonio Conte has made no secret of his desire for temperamental Spanish striker Diego Costa to leave, with Lukaku earmarked as a possible replacement.

Lukaku, who is reported to have been offered wages of more than £200,000 a week by United, should have returned to England on Thursday for pre-season training with Everton.

Sources at Everton were adamant no deal had been struck with United while the buying club told the BBC on Thursday that terms had been agreed.

However, according to British media, the twin-pronged persuasive powers of Pogba and Raiola have turned Lukaku's head away from Chelsea and to United.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic's long-term injury suffered in a Europa League match last season and the fading powers of record scorer Wayne Rooney, who has also been linked with a return to his boyhood club Everton, have made the capture of a top striker imperative for manager Jose Mourinho.

Apparent efforts to sign Real Madrid's Alvaro Morata came to naught - leading United to switch their attention to Lukaku.

Everton, who have spent freely in the close season, are believed to have hoped to sell Lukaku for closer to £100 million, which would have made him the world's most expensive player - eclipsing the £89 million that United spent on Pogba last year.

As it is, the deal would smash the record for a transfer fee between British clubs - breaking the £50 million paid by Chelsea to Liverpool for Fernando Torres in 2011.

The deal would also see Everton make a tidy profit on the £28 million they spent on Lukaku when then Chelsea manager Mourinho sold him in 2014 after a successful loan spell.

Lukaku, who scored 53 Premier League goals in 110 appearances for the club since his permanent move, declined the most lucrative contract offer in Everton's history at the end of last season, declaring he wished to play at a higher level.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2017, with the headline 'Early greetings from Lukaku'. Print Edition | Subscribe