LONDON - Manchester United believe they have agreed a stunning £75million deal for Romelu Lukaku.
But the completion of the move is being held up by Everton, who are angry that their star striker failed to turn up for pre-season training yesterday. Everton manager Ronald Koeman is said to be fuming.
Sportsmail understands Lukaku is on holiday in Los Angeles with United’s record signing Paul Pogba, who has the same agent as the 24-year-old Belgium international.
Lukaku, who is set to sign a five-year contract worth in excess of £200,000 a week in the next 48 hours, intends to link up with Jose Mourinho and his United squad when they fly to LA on Sunday for a pre-season tour of the United States.
It is understood that Pogba had an influence on Lukaku’s decision to turn his back on a return to Chelsea three years after leaving Stamford Bridge for Everton in a £28m deal.
So too did their agent Mino Raiola, who earned a staggering £40m cut from Pogba’s £89m move from Juventus a year ago, and is set to pocket another big commission from his latest client to follow Pogba, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sergio Romero to Old Trafford.
However, when Lukaku failed to arrive for pre-season work at Everton’s Finch Farm training ground on Thursday morning, Koeman’s anger escalated as repeated calls to Lukaku were not returned.
Insiders at Old Trafford confirmed Sportmail’s exclusive that United had snatched Lukaku from under the noses of the Premier League champions, and insisted that a £75m transfer fee had been agreed between the clubs for United’s top summer target, who scored 26 goals for Everton last season.
United are so confident the deal is done that they have ceased their pursuit of Real Madrid’s Alvaro Morata. Lukaku, who will be the second biggest signing in United’s history, has been earmarked as a direct replacement for Ibrahimovic, with Mourinho needing a big target man to lead the attack.
The Lukaku deal is not dependent on whether Wayne Rooney moves in the opposite direction and returns to Goodison Park 13 years after leaving there to join United. Rooney will be allowed to return on a free transfer.
That deal is expected to happen soon, with the 31-year-old ready to accept a drop in wages to return to his first club. If he remains at United he will earn £300,000 a week this season while Everton are looking to pay him no more than £160,000 a week.
Yesterday’s developments caught Chelsea by surprise. They believed they were certain to land the player they brought to England from Anderlecht six years ago and now they are desperately monitoring events in the hope that Lukaku has a very late change of heart.
Mourinho made Lukaku his No 1 target despite having sold the player to Everton during his second spell at Chelsea.
The Portuguese was known to be growing frustrated at United’s lack of progress in the transfer market, with Old Trafford chief Ed Woodward struggling to add to the signing of Benfica defender Victor Lindelof.
News of the Lukaku deal could not have come at a better time for United and Woodward on the eve of a high-profile tour of America.
Mourinho still wants another four players — a forward, a wide man, a defensive midfielder and a full back — which would take United’s spending past the £200m mark this summer.
However, the wrangle with Chelsea over Lukaku will surely make it more difficult for United to sign £40m-rated Nemanja Matic from Stamford Bridge.
While winning the race for Lukaku has headed off a potential problem between Mourinho and Woodward, it may have put Antonio Conte on collision course with the Chelsea board.
The Premier League champions have believed for weeks that Lukaku was on his way to them and Conte was stunned by Thursday's developments.
United’s initial offer for Lukaku included Rooney as part of the deal. United insist the two transfers are now separate, but talks over Rooney’s return to Everton and United’s willingness to let him go for nothing appear to have helped the Lukaku deal.
Rooney’s move could also go through this weekend before he is due to join the United tour.
His agent Paul Stretford held talks with Everton chairman Bill Kenwright on Wednesday afternoon as they look to thrash out a contract.
Everton have also agreed a deal to sign 18-year-old midfielder Josh Bowler from QPR for £1.5m, which could rise to £4m.