Lukaku, Barry, Deulofeu: How will Martinez replace this season's loan stars?

Everton face a dilemma whether they qualify for the Champions League or not. Come May, three of their star players will pack their bags and depart for their parent clubs following a season long loan. Unless they can generate the funds the brilliant performances of Romelu Lukaku, Gareth Barry and Gerard Deulofeu will be a distant memory, rather than a reality. So how will Everton and Roberto Martinez go about replacing those aforementioned players?

There’s no doubt Everton will miss the goals of Lukaku, the authority and experience of Barry and the eccentric Deulofeu. But they shouldn’t worry. Like their purchase of John Stones proves, good players can be found at affordable prices. While Everton lack the over spilling war chest of their rivals, with sensible planning and careful consideration, they will be able to replace the departing trio.

With Lukaku expected to cost in the region of £25million, the likelihood of the monster Belgian re-joining is slim. Take Lukaku out of the equation and Everton are left desperately short of options up front. Yes, Steven Naismith has impressed recently and they have Arouna Kone to return from injury but neither are the natural, consistent goal-scorers a prospective top four club needs. The need for a striker is greater than usual but what can Everton realistically expect? Aston Villa’s Christian Benteke would be ideal, though he would cost too much and is injured. Loic Remy of Newcastle could be a viable option.

For me though, they should take a look at the Championship which for too long has been an untapped market. One of Ross McCormack, Jordan Rhodes or Danny Ings would make for excellent, value-for-money signings. Okay, so they wouldn’t be the glamorous, marquee acquisitions expected but then does that really matter? After all, a striker’s job is to put the ball into the back of net. If they do that who can complain? It’s naïve to assume a player won’t succeed in the Premier League based solely on their experience. Likewise in midfield, Roberto Martinez could pluck a gem from the Championship without breaking the bank. Will Hughes might be out reach as his price is driven up by Derby but there are plenty of decent midfielders that could step up. Jordi Gomez played under Martinez at Wigan and has showed he can do it at the top level. He wouldn’t cost an obscene amount of money either. It’s a gamble but one worth taking.

It’s also a fantastic opportunity for Everton to promote youth. Much like Ross Barkley, who exploded onto the scene when given his chance, they have a conveyor belt of talent ready and waiting. Chuck them in and see what they can do. If it doesn’t work out, they haven’t lost anything but like those young players, have everything to win.

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The exit of Lukaku, Barry and Deulofeu will be a blow. It would be to any team. But they are replaceable and life will go on. Rather than see it as a negative, Everton should look at it as an opportunity gained.

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