(Reuters) – Everton’s Romelu Lukaku is on course to become a top striker and Roberto Martinez is the ideal manager to get the best out of the Belgian, according to team mate Gareth Barry.
Lukaku scored a brace in Everton’s 4-0 Premier League defeat of basement side Aston Villa on Saturday, taking him to 11 goals in all competitions for his club this season.
The powerful centre-forward also became only the fifth player to net 50 Premier League goals before his 23rd birthday, joining an elite group that includes Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Martinez’s decision to sign Lukaku for a reported 28 million pounds ($42 million) from Chelsea last season raised eyebrows not just because of the size of the fee involved but also because of questions over the player’s attitude and commitment.
But with Everton seventh in the table after 13 games and just a point outside the European places, and Lukaku on nine league goals and second in the scoring charts behind Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy, Martinez’s gamble on a player that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was willing to let go is paying dividends.
“In terms of Rom’s age, he is going to be right up there at the top of the strikers I’ve played with,” midfielder Barry told the club’s website (www.evertonfc.com).
“Because of how long he’s been around and because of how big and strong he is, people forget his age.
“He is still learning and under the manager here, his standards and performances are going to keep going up.
“Like any striker, it is all about confidence. He had a strong pre-season and hit the ground running.”
On current form, Everton will hope to leapfrog West Ham United in the table when they travel to Dean Court to take on third-from-bottom Bournemouth at the weekend, but Barry is taking nothing for granted.
“Like many of the teams that come up, they start well and then find their level and at the moment they are grinding results out rather than playing the football that they were used to last season,” the 34-year-old said.
“We have got to expect a tough game because they can cause any teams problems at home.”
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(Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)