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Did Everton overpay for Romelu Lukaku?

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Laurence Griffiths

We've seen two narratives emerge from Romelu Lukaku's arrival at Everton. On one side, most Evertonians are ecstatic to get such a young talent at such an attractive price. If you go ask Chelsea supporters, some can't believe they let Lukaku go for so cheap and others think that the club managed to fleece Everton. But which side is right?

Transfer prices are paid based on the hope of future production, but they are largely based on past services. It is a magical science that no one can quite explain. Honestly it wouldn't shock me if managers just had a dart board in their office with transfer values on it. Throw the dart and the section it hits determines their bid for a new layer or their magic number to let a current man leave.

But because Lukaku is a striker, it can be a little easier to quantify his previous success. Though a striker's job involves much more than scoring goals, they are usually bought on sold based on that production. For this exercise we took the top 15 goalscorers, minus Yaya Toure, and compared them. The chart below shows transfer price in pounds, age of the player at the time of transfer, league appearances before the transfer, and goals before the transfer. We then calculated the goals per game for each player.

For some players, like Luis Suarez, I used an older transfer than the most recent one. I was trying to get a transfer where the player in question was a similar age to Lukaku as well as having a similar number of league appearances.

Name Age Fee (M of £) App Goals GPG Transfer Date
Sergio Aguero 23 36 229 97 0.423580786 Jul-11
Edin Hazard 21 31.9 147 36 0.244897959 Jul-12
Edin Dzeko 24 29.5 209 93 0.444976077 Jan-11
Wayne Rooney 18 29.5 67 15 0.223880597 Jul-04
Romelu Lukaku 21 28 118 50 0.423728814 Jul-11
Robin van Persie 28 24.5 255 111 0.435294118 Jul-12
Luis Suarez 24 23.3 166 101 0.608433735 Jan-10
Emmanuel Adebayor 25 23.1 226 79 0.349557522 Jul-09
Daniel Sturridge 23 13.2 96 26 0.270833333 Jan-13
Wilfred Bony 24 11.1 138 70 0.507246377 Jul-13
Olivier Giroud 26 9.58 190 79 0.415789474 Jul-12
Loic Remy 26 8.4 148 53 0.358108108 Jan-13
Jay Rodriguez 23 6.9 122 35 0.286885246 Jul-12
Christian Benteke 21 6.18 117 44 0.376068376 Jul-12
Aaron Ramsey 17 5.11 16 1 0.0625 Jul-08

The table above shows Lukaku as the 5th most expensive striker out of the group at £28 million. Even without the add ons he would be the 5th most expensive. It is a slight surprise given how often we see transfer fees bandied about involving £30 million or more, but a lot of those recent transfers have involved players leaving the Premier League.

But the interesting bit is when you rank these players by goals per game. There Lukaku is still the 5th highest striker. He's clustered with Dzeko, Van Persie, Aguero, and Giroud. in the top 7. Suarez and Bony had much higher gpg numbers before making their move, but it is nice to see that Lukaku is right up there with his production. Keep in mind that Lukaku's numbers also include 2 full seasons in the Premier League, something only a couple of players are able to do in this chart. That undoubtedly plays a price in determining Lukaku's transfer fee.

So is Lukaku overpriced? I find it hard to say that. I also don't think you can say right now that Everton made out with Lukaku at a bargain. Solely based on past performance he seems to be right in line with similar transfers.

The true answer though will depend on what Lukaku does going forward. The players near Lukaku on this list have all gone on to become some of the top forwards in the EPL and even in the world. If Lukaku continues his output and plays well he will be at that same level and make this transfer look like a fantastic deal for Everton. If he doesn't continue his pace and his goal production drops, it would seem to be a really poor deal by a relatively cash-strapped Everton club.