After months of pretty much every big-name striker being linked with a transfer to both Chelsea and Manchester United, it now looks increasingly likely that Alvaro Morata will be wearing red next season, while Romelu Lukaku will swap Everton blue for that of his former club.
Both 24 and entering peak years after long looking like being among the finest prospects in their positions in Europe, there are also plenty of differences between the players, which will make following their career paths from here onwards very interesting.
While Morata is the frustrated understudy lifting trophy after trophy at a big club but contributing less than he’d like to those successes, Lukaku is the undisputed star of a mid-table side and will feel he’s earned the chance to compete for bigger things at one of Europe’s super clubs.
And then there’s the differences in playing style – Lukaku looks almost tailor-made for Chelsea’s needs right now, but then he’d also fit in well in a Jose Mourinho side, so can Morata really measure up?
Here’s a look to see if we can work that out from some of their key stats over the 2016/17 season…
With 25 Premier League goals, Lukaku truly had one of the finest seasons of his career to date. While many continue to question his tendency to go missing in the big games, he managed five more goals than Diego Costa across the whole campaign, and finished second only to Harry Kane in the running for the Golden Boot. Blues fans will surely feel that he will only improve with the likes of Eden Hazard around to supply him at Stamford Bridge.
Lukaku career snap shot
Also encouraging for Chelsea will be that the Belgian scored his 25 goals with fewer shots than Costa, and that while he got one fewer assist, he managed to create more chances and achieve ten more take-ons than the Spaniard.
Conte is a perfectionist and will clearly want a more well-rounded centre-forward to complete his side. Having stunned Costa by informing him that he’s not in his plans for next season, it would make sense that the younger, faster and more dynamic Lukaku is seen as the striker best suited to coming in as an upgrade.
To look at Morata’s numbers, it would perhaps be fairer to switch to ‘per 90 minutes played’ metrics, as supplied by Squawka.
Due to being a squad player for Real Madrid, it is little surprise that Morata’s figures are lower than his rivals above, but it’s his impact when he does play that will have appealed to Mourinho this summer.
Suddenly, this paints a pretty different picture. Morata will likely be cheaper than Lukaku, possibly considerably so, and looks the ideal missing piece of the jigsaw for a United side that created plenty but took few of their scoring chances last season.
Morata career snap shot
Not only is Morata scoring more despite less time on the pitch, he’s also been clinical to do so despite taking on average 3.62 shots per 90 minutes, in comparison to Zlatan Ibrahimovic who took 4.28; for all his goals, it was clear throughout the campaign that the veteran Swede was far from shy of having a pop at goal, but just not effective enough to turn a few more of those 15 draws into wins.
Going back to Lukaku as well, the Everton hit-man also averaged a higher goals-per-90 than Costa, and also did so while taking fewer shots.
In short, there’s not a lot to pick between them and both have gone down very different paths to be where they are now. What separates the pair from here will be largely down to the success of their respective teams, as well as their own temperament. Lukaku may have to do better than in the past at coping with the higher expectations of a more illustrious club, while Morata will be used to that side of things but could come up short due to settling in a new country and coping with the physical demand of playing 90 minutes week in, week out.
It’s at least clear that if both players continue largely as they performed in 2016/17, both Chelsea and United will be pulling off two great signings in this summer’s transfer market.