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Everton eye transfer boost ahead of Europa League assault

ESPN staff
April 29, 2014
Roberto Martinez admits keeping hold of Romelu Lukaku will be difficult © Getty Images

Roberto Martinez has suggested that he needs up to seven new players this summer to prepare his Everton side for a European challenge.

Saturday's 2-0 defeat at Southampton severely damaged hopes of qualifying for next season's Champions League, which all but disappeared when fourth-placed Arsenal beat Newcastle on Monday.

But Everton need just one point from their final two matches to guarantee a spot in next season's Europa League, which will put its own demands on Martinez's squad.

Lukaku coy on future

Romelu Lukaku has scored 13 goals in 29 appearances for Everton this season © AP
  • On-loan striker Romelu Lukaku has admitted parent club Chelsea will have the "last word" when his future is sorted in the summer.
  • Lukaku, 21 next month, has attracted interest from several clubs across Europe - with any good performances at the World Cup with Belgium in June likely to increase speculation.
  • But the striker refused to be drawn into a discussion of his future. "We'll see at the end of the season," he told Het Nieuwsblad.
  • "I'm focusing on my performances at Everton. I still have a contract until 2016 at Chelsea and I think they're happy about the way I'm developing.
  • "They have the last word, so we shall see what's happening next."

The manager is looking at the possibility of retaining Monaco forward Lacina Traore, probably on another loan deal, as well as securing a permanent deal for midfielder Gareth Barry, who is out of contract at parent club Manchester City this summer.

Holding on to striker Romelu Lukaku, borrowed from Chelsea for the season, may be more difficult now that the prospect of Champions League football is fading. But the manager is making plans to strengthen a squad that has taken Everton to fifth in the Premier League with two matches to play.

"It's not about improving the squad, it's about increasing it," Martinez said.

"When you are playing in Europe, you need six or seven new players. That's the reality and we will do that. I get excited about bringing new players in. You need fresh blood.

"We've got incredible senior players: Tim Howard, Phil Jagielka, Leighton Baines, Leon Osman, James McCarthy. Those players hold the dressing room together but we need fresh talent and fresh additions to help the team.

"In another season, the 69 points we have would have been enough for Champions League football. With the heritage and history we have, we should be aiming for the Champions League."

Meanwhile, Martinez and England manager Roy Hodgson have been boosted by the return to fitness of Phil Jagielka.

The 32-year-old defender has not played since the 1-0 defeat to Chelsea on February 22, some 11 matches ago, and initial comebacks were delayed for fear of aggravating the problem.

Jagielka played 30 minutes in a behind-closed-doors friendly against Walsall a week ago in a bid to build up his match fitness, while Martinez has revealed that Everton have held discussions to reassure Hodgson and the FA that he will be fit to play for his country at this summer's World Cup.

"Phil has done really well in his programme and has developed strength in his muscles," Martinez told the club's official website. "He looks completely regenerated and is desperate to be available.

"It will be a late call whether he is available or not, but I would be surprised if he doesn't make the squad for Saturday."

Phil Jagielka has been out for more than two months © PA Photos
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