Roberto Martinez insists all his focus is on the development of star striker Romelu Lukaku, and not agent Mino Raiola, with the Belgian striker happy at Goodison Park.
And the Everton manager also reiterated how the Blues are happy with the Belgian, with Martinez believing his club is the right one for Lukaku, both now and in the future.
Lukaku didn’t feature in Everton’s 1-0 win over Southampton having been sidelined with a hamstring injury sustained against QPR a fortnight ago.
But the Blues’ record signing dominated the build-up to the game after Raiola intimated his client’s long-term future would be away from Merseyside. The Italian, whom Lukaku joined up with in March, even went as far to suggest the £28m move would not have happened last summer if he had been advising Lukaku at the time.
The Catalan boss has already told of his lack of concern over Lukaku’s future, and further emphasised how well the 21-year-old has done under
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“My focus is that Rom keeps on developing,” said Martinez. “Without a doubt we have been the best club for him because he has had his two best seasons that he has had as a professional and we love Romelu.
“We love having him here and that is why we much such a big commitment in signing him on a long term contract. You can see the way he has been performing since January.
“It has been a joy to see him developing, there is going to be a lot of talk when you score goals as a striker, you are going to get the attraction of other teams – and when you play badly you are going to be criticised for it.
“That is unfortunately a position that is going to attract a lot of attention from the media, but from my point of view he is on a long-term contract. The worry would be if his contract would be up in the summer.”
Lukaku signed a five-year deal with Everton when making his loan move permanent last summer, and has repaid their faith – and investment – with 18 goals in all competitions.
But despite his long-term contract, fresh doubt has been placed upon Lukaku’s future at Goodison – something Martinez understands, but does not entertain.
He added: “If an agent is going to make those comments, then it is normal that you are going to ask about it. An agent can say whatever they want and it is down to everyone else to see what is behind it.
“We are not going to go into comments from agents. We shouldn’t call them agents now they are representatives or intermediaries – it is his prerogative [to make public comments] and you will have to ask him.
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“For me there is no issue for me to have to comment on, it is not as if the player wants to leave or that he is not happy. The player since January has been in terrific form.
“He is on a long-term contract and all I want is for Rom to be fighting for his place, because the team showed they are ready to fight and strength we have in the side is important for any player.”
The power agents hold has been on the agenda over the past week, with Raiola’s comments coming after Raheem Sterling’s representative, Aidy Ward, had his client do a television interview with the BBC.
Everton had held a good relationship with Lukaku’s former agent Christophe Henrotay, who also looks after compatriots Kevin Mirallas and David Henen.
When it became clear that Chelsea would let the Belgium international leave last summer, Bill Kenwright’s accord with Henrotay played a key part in helping the Toffees jump the queue to land the front-man’s signature.
But Martinez remains wary of the influence agents can have on a player, although he admits they serve an important purpose.
“In modern game you don’t get the values of 25 years ago,” he said. “But when you have a player on a long term contract there is nothing to discuss. That is straightforward and clear.”
When asked whether agent fees were a contributing factor, he added: “Well there has been an eternal debate about that. The new rules they are trying to change things around and it is very difficult.
“It is difficult because our rules in the league are different to other leagues in Europe. So when you try and sign players you need to be universal with the way that the representatives are treated.
“It is an impossible answer. Representatives are needed in the game because they do a very important job, but it is difficult to measure the re-numeration you should give them.”
Martinez’s bolshiness over the future of Lukaku is replicated across the squad too. He believes the current crop of players signed up to the club have the potential to remain there for a long time.
“Last season the last thing we wanted was to lose the squad and we managed to keep it all together,” he said. “What is important is the players who are out of contract, their futures are in their hands, the players who are under contract we are in control of.
“It is our job and role to make the strongest possible squad for Everton so that we take the football club forward and become a winning team.
“I don’t see that as an issue just with our squad – that happens in world football and we are quite prepared as a football club.”
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