Evertonians can justifiably feel a sense of frustration as Romelu Lukaku’s Everton career looks to come to an uncomfortable end.
Toffees fans have been left reeling by the news that Lukaku has rejected an offer of a new contract and will now likely leave the club in the summer.
What makes this news so shocking is the fact all the noises coming from the negotiations were so positive.
Just 10 minutes before the news broke Graeme Sharp spoke on Sky Sports News about how a new deal would be a ‘statement of intent’.
So what has caused this dramatic turn of events? Well the answer is likely to lie with Mino Raiola.
Sir Alex Ferguson revealed in his autobiography that he distrusted Raiola “the moment he met him”.
It looks like he hasn’t changed.
The so-called ‘super agent’ has been all too happy to talk to Jim White on Talksport in recent months about how well talks were progressing.
Raiola, now infamously, said the new contract was ‘99.9999%’ complete just a few weeks ago. Never has 0.000.1% felt so painful for Evertonians.
There were reports over the weekend that the main sticking point was over the value of a release clause, with Everton favouring a fee in the region of £90m while Lukaku wanted £70-80m.
But those rumours were quickly played down and reports suggests Everton remained confident Lukaku would put pen-to-paper.
So was a deal close and fell at the final hurdle or were all those talks just a hazy mirage?
Either way it looks more and more likely that Raiola has played Everton good and proper.
He famously said he’d never have let Lukaku join Everton had he represented him back in 2014 and it appears his opinion of the club hasn’t changed.
Everton have been led up the garden path only to be confronted by a rather abrupt dead end.
Lukaku has always spoken of his desire to play in the Champions League and the majority of Evertonians accepted and understood those ambitions.
But if that has always been the case, then why all the rumour and speculation regarding a new deal?
We will never know just how far down the line those talks went but from the outside it’s seems Raiola’s very public declarations were merely an attempt to put Everton under pressure and perhaps force them to concede to his demands.
As the club look to progress and try and break into the elite both in the Premier League and in Europe, men like Raiola will unfortunately appear with increasing frequency.
It is something they are going to have to both learn from and get used to.
This perhaps represents the first true test of the new regime after 12 months that has seen nothing but progress on and off the field.
Farhad Moshiri will no doubt try to persuade Lukaku to change his mind but with Everton certain to not be in the Champions League it appears any efforts will prove futile.
The next step is to ensure this saga doesn’t derail the team’s form and spread disruption and discontent amongst the squad.
The focus also must quickly turn to replacing a player who has been directly involved in more than half of Everton’s Premier League goals this season. Everton can still command a fee in excess of £60m and that cash must be spent wisely.
This is a significant bump in the road but Everton can – and will – come through stronger.