LONDON - Striker Romelu Lukaku has reportedly stunned Everton by telling the club he will not sign a new contract.
The 23-year-old's move is set to spark a summer transfer scramble, according to reports in the British media, which say Chelsea and Manchester United are readying bids for the Belgian international.
Lukaku met with club officials on Tuesday afternoon (March 14) and informed them of his decision, confirming he has no wish to extend his current deal which still has two years left to run from the end of this season, said the Daily Telegraph.
Negotiations have been ongoing for months, with Lukaku’s agent, Mino Raiola, suggesting on numerous occasions it was "99.9 per cent agreed".
However, Lukaku wants to keep his options open rather than put pen to paper on the £140,000-a-week (S$240,000) terms on offer, the Telegraph said.
After Everton’s 3-0 win over West Bromwich Albion on Saturday, he told French television that signing a new deal was not on his mind.
The 23-year-old striker has made no secret of his ambition to play in the Champions League and now he wants to wait, not only to see if Everton can force their way into the top-four hunt in their remaining games, but if any clubs in that competition make a move during the summer.
Everton’s chances of catching the top four are remote, but not completely over, for this season. Nevertheless, Lukaku’s decision to end contract talks is a setback for the club, who were hoping to announce renewed terms in the coming days, the Telegraph said.
Lukaku has scored 19 goals for Everton this season and is the prized asset of the club. He is currently the joint-top goalscorer in the Premier League.
His value has soared each year he has been at Goodison Park and, despite his decision, Everton will still be able to demand a huge fee should he request a transfer this summer.
Equally, Everton could play hardball and resists all offers for the striker, but there is a good relationship between all parties, said the Telegraph.
Last season it seemed certain Lukaku would leave Everton, but following the appointment of Ronald Koeman he committed himself to the club in the hope of winning trophies and competing for a top-four spot.
Everton’s progress under the Dutchman has been excellent - they are likely to qualify for Europe - but the improvement may not be rapid enough to secure the Champions League football Lukaku is craving far more than the lucrative terms on offer.
Both Manchester United and Lukaku's former club Chelsea have been strongly linked with a move, although Everton would suggest the valuation of £60 million they put on his head last season is a conservative assessment of the striker’s real value given his improving form.
Chelsea made an inquiry about re-signing Lukaku last summer, said the Guardian, but were not prepared to pay Everton’s asking price, while United have been heavily linked with a move for Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann.
The news will be a crushing blow to Everton, who had hoped to persuade Lukaku to spearhead their European ambitions next season, with the backing of their majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri, the Guardian said.