Manchester United were played like a fiddle once too often by Real Madrid and have absolutely done the right thing in turning their focus away from Alvaro Morata and towards Romelu Lukaku.
Madrid had assumed that United would sign Morata at any price but by walking away and dealing with Everton for the Belgium forward instead United proved they were no mugs this time around.
Indeed, it is baffling that Jose Mourinho might have deemed Morata a preferable option than Lukaku in the first place. Lukaku has 85 Premier League goals to his name whereas Morata – who is the same age – has fewer than half of that total throughout his spells in Italy and Spain.
Lukaku is a proven threat in English football even if question-marks remain over certain aspects of his game. But this is a risk-free signing in the sense that Lukaku has guaranteed goals since he started getting regular playing time at this level.
Morata is a sporadic goalscorer and cannot match the strength and pace of Lukaku either. The Everton man is altogether a better signing and represents a great piece of business at that price too.
The scale of spending in the Premier League has reached such proportions that £75m is probably the going rate for an accomplished goalscorer in the division. Roberto Martinez paid £28m to attract Chelsea into selling in the first place and the jury was largely out on such a hefty tag at the time.
There can be no question now, however, that Lukaku’s true worth is closer to the price United are paying than the one Everton paid.
Morata is a well-decorated footballer for his age with league titles and Champions League titles alike but the truth is he’s been peripheral to the teams he’s played on.
At Juventus he made only 16 league starts in his final season before rejoining Real. Not many people would have him in their preferred starting XI there either.
His goal output was good last season but he’s not the kind of striker who has proven to be worth what Real Madrid are asking.
There has been a tendency for United to be ripped off in the market recently. Selling clubs are well aware of United’s needs and also their spending power. You don’t get to the top places of the Deloitte Money League without rival teams becoming aware of your financial might.
Accordingly, paying a release clause is sometimes the best-case scenario for United as opposed to the worst-case in the eyes of many other buying clubs. When their interest is known then teams can jack the prices up and up.
Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial and Luke Shaw are just three recent examples of United paying an eyebrow-raising sum. And Real Madrid wanted similar for Morata. A player they bought back to the club last year and who is clearly surplus to requirements, they were nonetheless asking United to go as high as €90m to sign him.
Credit here must be shown to Ed Woodward – United’s executive vice chairman - who does all the talking when it comes to transfers. It would have been tempting for United to match Madrid’s valuation quite simply to make sure the deal got done but they wouldn’t stand for it.
Relations between the two clubs are not the friendliest considering the furore over David de Gea two summers ago and in this context United were right to walk away.
Jose Mourinho has been thwarted already in the transfer market by Atletico Madrid’s ban on signing players. As they couldn’t bring in Alexandre Lacazette to replace Antoine Griezmann he stayed put and that threw United’s plans into chaos. They are restructuring their strike force this summer given the loss of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the impending sale of Wayne Rooney. Having missed out on Griezmann and fallen short of Madrid’s valuation of Morata, there was little space for messing about.
Mourinho has a long-standing interest in Lukaku, who has flourished since leaving Chelsea under the Portuguese. The player would have relished the chance to improve upon his initial impact at Chelsea but finds himself at a club of similar stature. Man Utd have not always got it spot on in the transfer market in recent years but they have made the right call this time.