Manchester United have stolen Romelu Lukaku from under the noses of Chelsea by agreeing a £75 million deal with Everton for the Belgium striker.
United hope to formally conclude a deal for Lukaku before the club fly to Los Angeles on Sunday for the start of their pre-season tour of the US.
Wayne Rooney is likely to join Everton in return although that is being treated as a separate deal, even if the Merseyside club’s interest in the England striker will have helped facilitate the move for Lukaku. United have now ended their interest in Real Madrid and Spain striker Alvaro Morata.
Lukaku’s impending transfer to Old Trafford is likely to infuriate Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, who had told the Premier League champions to sign the Belgian at any expense.
Chelsea were thought to be the favourites to sign Lukaku but United have been happy for that theory to gather pace in recent weeks as they worked quietly behind the scenes to secure a deal for the 24-year-old.
The capture of Lukaku gives Jose Mourinho his first choice target to replace Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a victory over his former club.
It is also another triumph for Mino Raiola, Lukaku’s agent who also oversaw Paul Pogba’s world record £89 million move to Old Trafford last summer as well as Henrikh Mkhitaryan’s £26.3 million transfer and Ibrahimovic’s switch from Paris St-Germain. It was reported in May that Raiola will earn £41 million from the Pogba deal and he is set for another handsome pay day as Lukaku puts the finishing touches to his United move.
United were actively pursuing a deal for Morata but he was Mourinho’s second choice to fill the void left by Ibrahimovic’s departure last week while negotiations were complicated by Real’s ongoing interest in United goalkeeper David De Gea.
If United complete a deal for Lukaku before Sunday, as expected, it remains to be seen if Rooney’s return to Goodison Park, 13 years after he left for Old Trafford, is also wrapped up by then.
Everton chairman Bill Kenwright met with Rooney’s agent Paul Stretford in London on Wednesday as talks accelerated and there is a will to get the transfer completed by the weekend.
United have yet to confirm whether they are willing to waive a fee for Rooney, who has 12 months left on his £300,000 a week contract, £60,000 of which is accounted for by a complex image rights deal.
Mourinho was said to have become increasingly exasperated by United’s lack of progress in the market this week but whether that was part of a smokescreen while the club moved to snare Lukaku is unclear.