Manchester United might have to break the bank to land him, but Dan Fitch thinks Romelu Lukaku is nevertheless a very sensible deal...
"A conversion rate of 22.7% last season certainly suggests that Lukaku could improve upon Ibrahomovic’s tally."
Romelu Lukaku would be the perfect signing for Manchester United.
Though Zlatan Ibrahimovic had a fine season at the club and surprised with the amount of goals he scored at the age of 35, there is no doubt that the presence of the ageing forward slowed down the speed of United's attacks and made them somewhat predictable.
Some 17 Premier League goals in 28 games from Ibrahimovic was a good return, but it came from a relatively poor shot conversion rate of just 14.8%. Collectively Jose Mourinho's side were even worse when it came to wasting chances. The team could only manage a 13% conversion rate, which saw them ranked 17th in the Premier League for that statistic, which is pretty appalling considering that United finished sixth.
It's little wonder then that Mourinho cut such an aggrieved figure on the sidelines last season, but should he succeed in his pursuit of Lukaku, we might just see Mourinho's smile make a long-awaited return to his face.
When spending a huge amount of money for a player, a club should not be taking an unnecessary punt. Lukaku could cost as much as £90m if reports are to be believed, yet he virtually guarantees goals in the Premier League and at 24 still has time to improve.
Mourinho didn't give Lukaku much of a chance to prove himself when the pair were briefly together at Chelsea in the 2013-14 season, but Lukaku has seized the opportunities to prove his worth elsewhere. He has been prolific in both his earlier loan spell at West Brom and during his four seasons at Everton, the latter of which saw him enjoy his best ever return of 25 league goals.
It's a measure of Lukaku's ability that last season marked the first time that an Everton player had hit the 20 goals mark since Gary Lineker, way back in 1985/86. Having solved a long-standing issue at one club, Lukaku has the chance to do likewise at Old Trafford, where Robin van Persie remains the last player to score 20 league goals in 2012-13, Alex Ferguson's final season.
A conversion rate of 22.7% last season certainly suggests that Lukaku could improve upon Ibrahomovic's tally and with the likes of Ander Herrera, Henrikh Mkhitarayan and Paul Pogba in support, he shouldn't be short of chances.
Despite the fact that the identity of Lukaku's next club is still up in the air, he's the [5.2] second favourite to be the Premier League's top scorer next season. Harry Kane is the worthy favourite and arguably too big a price at [4.1] having been top scorer in the last two seasons, but Lukaku's odds are likely to drop much lower than their current rate over the course of the campaign.
Though he is far from the perfect all-round forward, Lukaku will bring more than just goals to United. Because of his build, there has always been an expectation that Lukaku should be able to hold the ball up to bring others into play, in the same manner that his former Chelsea colleague Didier Drogba was able to.
That is not Lukaku's game, but his willingness to play on the shoulder of defenders, allied to his pace, creates space for midfielders to exploit. United looked noticeably more fluid last season when Ibrahimovic was injured and the much faster Marcus Rashford took his place. It's easy to imagine a swift counter-attacking team with Lukaku flanked by Rashford and Mkhitarayan, having much success next season.
There is also the matter of what this deal means in the wider perspective. It has long been assumed that Lukaku would be heading back to Chelsea to replace Diego Costa and if United can indeed hijack this transfer, it leaves Antonio Conte to search for another alternative.
The signing of Lukaku could also help United - who are [4.4] to win the title - smooth the path for Wayne Rooney to move to Everton. With few other suitors for Rooney apparent, it's in United's interests to find a way to ease him out of the club and avoid a distracting saga. The departure of Rooney would also be another step away from the slow, ponderous attacking style that has become United's trademark in recent seasons.
It's a transfer that makes sense on a number of levels and though it's hard to describe an outlay of £90m as sensible, the Lukaku deal is as close as you'll come to sense in a mad world.