LONDON: Manchester United’s bid to sign Everton’s Belgian international striker Romelu Lukaku for a record fee between British clubs of £75million ($97m, 85.5m euros) looked nearer to completion Friday as photos emerged of him training with Paul Pogba.
Lukaku, 24, was pictured on United star 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 this weekend to start a pre-season tour, the images supply further indications that Lukaku is Old Trafford bound. They also suggest that 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 over £200,000 a week by United, should have returned to England on Thursday for pre-season training with Everton.
Everton sources were adamant no deal had been struck with United whilst the buying club had told the BBC on Thursday terms had been agreed.
However, according to the British media the twin pronged persuasive powers of Pogba and Raiola have turned Lukaku’s head away from Chelsea and to United.
Raiola did extremely well out of United last year making an estimated £40m out of the Pogba transfer from Juventus alone while stablemates Henrykh Mkhitaryan and Zlatan Ibrahimovic also joined the ‘Red Devils’.
Ibrahimovic’s long-term injury suffered in a Europa League match last season and the fading powers of record goalscorer Wayne Rooney, who has also been linked with a return to his first 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 nothing 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 £100m which would have made him the world’s most expensive player bettering the £89m that United spent on Pogba last year.
As it is, the deal would smash the record for a transfer fee between British clubs — the record is the £50m paid by Chelsea to Liverpool for Fernando Torres in 2011 — and register as the joint-fifth most expensive player of all time.
The deal would also see Everton make a tidy profit on the £28m they spent on Lukaku when then Chelsea manager Mourinho — now the United handler — 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.