Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku remains one of the prime candidates to replace Diego Costa at Atletico Madrid next season. The Belgium international could move in the opposite direction to Costa, who is poised to complete his £32 million transfer to Stamford Bridge over the forthcoming weeks.
According to Spanish newspaper Marca, La Liga champions Atletico are in no rush to find a replacement for 25-year-old Costa, who scored 36 goals in 52 appearances for the Champions League finalists last season. They claim Atleti are still awaiting a formal offer which will trigger the Brazil-born Spain international’s release clause - even though it’s believed he has already undergone a routine medical with the west London outfit ahead of his proposed transfer.
Atletico, however, do not expect Costa to still be at the Vicente Calderon come the start of the 2014/15 campaign and are keen to secure a replacement over the forthcoming weeks.
The World Cup finals in Brazil are making things a little difficult for the Madrid-based outfit, though. Lukaku is currently with the Belgium national team, who start their World Cup campaign against Algeria in Belo Horizonte later today, and his future will not be resolved until after the showpiece international tournament reaches its conclusion.
Lukaku: A striker in demand
A host of clubs have shown interest in signing 21-year-old Lukaku, who has netted an impressive 32 Premier League goals in his 66 Premier League appearances with West Brom and Everton over the past two seasons, including the likes of Wolfsburg and Juventus. Arsenal and Tottenham have also been linked with the powerful forward, who arrived at Chelsea for an initial £10 million fee in 2011.
But after winning La Liga and reaching the Champions League final in what was one of the most remarkable campaigns from any side for many a year, Atletico Madrid - managed by the impressive Diego Simeone - will undoubtedly be an attractive proposition for Lukaku.
Some of the world’s best strikers have flourished at the Vicente Calderon over the last decade, including household names Diego Forlan, Sergio Aguero and Radamel Falcao. The opportunity for Lukaku to add his name to that esteemed list of strikers would, naturally, be tempting.
Mourinho to have the final say
But Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho will ultimately have the final say over whether Lukaku stays or leaves Stamford Bridge this summer. The Portuguese coach is interested in signing Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic as well as Costa, which indicates that Lukaku may not be part of his first-team plans - at least for the coming season.
One possibility is that Lukaku spends another campaign out on loan - but the striker is ambitious, knows his capabilities, and may feel it’s now or never for him to become a first-team regular with the Blues.