06 April 2014

Lukaku and Martinez discuss their futures...

     "Boss."
     "Hm? Oh. Romelu. How are you?
     "Fine, boss. Thank you. It's just, I—nevermind." Lukaku shifted nervously.
     "Romelu, you can talk to me. Are you nervous about Sunday? I know it's a big match. A lot on the line, that's for sure."
     "I—well, yes, sir. But there's more."
     "Don't worry, Romelu. I'm sure you will do just fine." Martínez looked stern but confident as he looked to assuage his striker's fears.
     "I hope so, but..."
     "Romelu. You will do fine. You have scored against Arsenal before. You have made us proud. Without you, we struggle, but there is no pressure for you. The pressure is on them, for no one expects us to overtake them."
     "Mr. Martínez, sir, this is not my concern. I feel—I feel this match is almost...an audition."

     It was at this point that Martínez stopped twirling his pencil and looked directly at Lukaku, just now seeing the predicament the man found himself in. "Romelu, do not worry. This club wants you here, even if we do not quite meet our goal of Champions League football. I am the one who promised this, not you. If we fall short, you need not worry. We will discuss your status with José, and I am sure we can extend your stay here."
     "Thank you, sir, but—"
     "Please, Romelu. You may call me Roberto. We are together in this. Go ahead."
     Lukaku looked nervous. He swallowed and looked at the floor. "This is not what I mean by audition." He looked up beseechingly.
     "Ah," Martínez nodded, "I see. You have heard the rumors, as have I. It as if you and I are in the same boat, is it not? The newspapers in this country, the websites, they both talk of us leaving this club, of moving on to something bigger and better."
     "Yes, sir—er, Roberto. But I do not know how this will work. Arsenal are in fourth; we are in fifth. If we lose, well, Arsenal will go the Champions League. What of us?"
     Martínez pressed his fingers together and sank into deep thought. "I do not know. For you, perhaps, the path is clearer. If we do not win, we will not make it to the Champions League. Arsenal will look to buy a striker. Chelsea may have to sell you, and Arsenal is the only other club with the resources and Champions League credentials. Liverpool will not need you. Man City will not, either. Do you see?"
     Lukaku pondered this for a moment. "Yes. So what is there to do?"
     "I don't know, Romelu. There is still so much that can happen. Even if we win, we may still fall short of our goals, and I don't know what this will mean for you. I want us to win, of course. I want us to make it to the Champions League."
     "As do I, sir."
     "However." Martínez gazed directly and meaningfully at Lukaku. "However. We must be realistic. Pragmatic. What happens to you or to I if we finish fifth?"
     "It is as you say. Arsenal may look to buy me from Chelsea. If Everton cannot offer Champions League football, I may go there."
     "Few will blame you, Romelu. This is the way of things now. Players move. Coaches move. The fans will be upset, to be sure. It is hard to balance loyalty and personal interests. You must decide what matters more."
     Lukaku looked down at the floor, lost in thought, the only sound a clock ticking down the hall. "We must win. Everton must win."
     "I agree, Romelu. For you, for the club, this is best."
     "What about you, though? What is best for you?"
     Martínez looked to the ceiling; it was his turn to lose himself in his thoughts. "I—I don't know. If we make it to the Champions League, of course, I stay. I vowed to take this club there, and I would want to be there to share the experience. If we don't, well...this is where it gets difficult."
     "Will you not go to Arsenal?"
     "That is not up to me, is it? I do not know—I don't think anyone knows—what Wenger will do. There has been much talk of him leaving. His contract will end in June, and with the talk there has been, the criticism, the abuse, the insults, it is hard to see him stay. If they do not make Champions League, if they do not win the FA Cup, he may leave."
     "This is your chance, then, is it not?"
     "I don't know. I honestly don't. Would I want to replace this man who is synonymous with Arsenal? There are many who believe his name and that of the club are the same, such have been his achievements and his loyalty. To replace him, well, that is quite a task."
     "Roberto. I have watched you now. I have played for Mourinho as well. I see that you can lead a club to victory with no resources to speak of. What could you do with that squad? Ask yourself."
     "Romelu, of course I have asked myself this. But it is not up to me. If we finish above Arsenal, maybe that is the end for Wenger. Maybe he decides to leave. If they win the FA Cup, maybe he leaves, at last to say that he won a trophy in his final year. I don't know, Romelu. I don't."
     "So those are the options. Arsenal finish fourth or fifth. Arsenal wins the FA Cup or they do not. What combination of these makes Wenger stay?"
     "Venger, Romelu. It is pronounced as a V. More important, I don't know what it will take for him to stay or to go. I do know that we must do what it takes to win on Sunday, and let these other issues sort themselves out. Still, it is not disrespectful to hope to defeat a club that you imagine joining, is it?"
     "I don't think so, sir."
     "Well. Let's set aside these ideas, this 'audition', as you call it. We have a match to win. It will not be easy."