Jelavic sale signals step-up in Everton striker hunt

Dean Mouhtaropoulos

Everton boss Roberto Martinez stated at the start of the January transfer window that Nikica Jelavic would only be allowed to leave the club if a permanent replacement was found.

Therefore the news on Tuesday for the Croatian frontman is to join Hull has sparked rumours regarding a big name striking arrival at Goodison Park before the month is out.

Hopes were high for Jelavic when the former Rangers man plundered 11 goals in his first 16 games for the club. But his confidence dipped and his form shattered, meaning he has scored just 10 in 53 appearances since then.

Despite his poor record over the last 18 months letting Jelavic leave is a calculated gamble by Martinez.

His brace against QPR in the FA Cup last week raised hopes he could re-discover his early form and provide a timely boost to Everton’s European push.

It seems though that his destiny always lied away from Merseyside despite his efforts against Harry Redknapp’s men. He certainly goes with the good wishes of the fans, who really wanted him to be a success, but it seems a move is best for all parties.

If that’s the case then Romelu Lukaku becomes the only fit senior striker at the club, with Arouna Kone sidelined with a knee injury.

With the race for a Champions League spot gathering pace and the FA Cup adding layers to the fixture list, support for the on-loan Chelsea striker is vital if the club are to maintain their forward momentum.

One name that featured heavily in the weekend gossip columns was Michy Batshuayi of Standard Liege.

The Belgian appears to tick all the boxes as far as Martinez striking wish list is concerned: young, powerful and with a decent goalscoring record.

Given his nationality it is hardly surprising he has been compared to Lukaku, who is the same age as the Liege man.

The link has been given legs by the fact his agent, Christophe Henrothay, also brokered the deal that took Kevin Mirallas to Everton in 2012, while another one of his clients, Vadis Odjidja-Ofoe, came close to moving to Everton last season.

The latest transfer rumours on Monday suggest the deal may be scuppered due to a disagreement over the fee, with Liege demanding Batshuay’s £7million release clause is paid in full upfront, rather than Everton’s preferred method of instalments.

That highlights the difficulty of shopping in January, with clubs unwilling to sell their best assets and those that are demanding sky-high prices (which you can appreciate given the short nature of the window).

It will also then suggested that Everton may sign Batshuay but loan him to Anderlecht for the rest of the season, suggesting he is to replace Lukaku when he returns to Chelsea rather than act as his understudy.

Other potential targets includes Hereenveen’s Alfred Finnbogason and Dusan Tadic of FC Twente, but both clubs are only willing to sell at the right (i.e. high) price.

Martinez knows he has to bolster his forward line in the next few weeks to help support Lukaku and ultimately underpin Everton’s top four ambitions.

But has already spoken of his reluctance to disrupt a tightknit squad with the wrong type of signing or drastically overpaying for a player, given the club’s funds are limited.

The sanctioning of the sale of Jelavic though suggests the canny Spaniard has something up his sleeve.

And given everything else he has touched has turned to gold so far this season, Everton fans are cautiously optimistic about what the next few weeks may bring.

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