By Neil Wood
Replacing Romelu Lukaku will be a mammoth task for Ronald Koeman and Steve Walsh, after the 24-year-old left Everton to join Premier League rivals Manchester United this summer.
Despite being maligned at times for his work ethic, the Belgium international’s record of almost a goal every other game clarifies the significant impact he had at Goodison Park.
Recent recruitment suggests Everton will look to a dynamic style next season, with the purchase of Sandro Ramirez, Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney emphasising this.
However, despite all being solid additions, the Toffees need an out-and-out goalscoring number nine to replace Lukaku if they are to achieve their lofty ambitions in 2017-18.
While proven Premier League attackers such as Olivier Giroud and Christian Benteke have been mentioned as possible targets, an audacious left-field option could be Inter Milan’s Gabriel Barbosa.
Prior to a move to Serie A last summer, the South American forward was one of the most-coveted players in world football due to his sublime performances for Santos and Brazil national age-grade sides.
An explosive and flamboyant footballer, his individuality has seen him likened to illustrious compatriot Neymar and his ability is undoubted.
Competition for places and the presence of irrepressible club captain Mauro Icardi limited Barbosa’s opportunities at Inter in 2016-17 and talk of a summer departure on loan has been mooted in the media.
While some would say the 20-year-old Brazilian would represent a riskier option than Giroud or Benteke, the South American’s potential is phenomenal.
Although someone like the Arsenal centre forward would improve Everton, he is a short-term answer; Barbosa could help the Toffees smash through their perceived glass ceiling and challenge for a top-four place once he had found his feet in England.
While suitors of the Brazil international will not be in short supply should he be made available by Inter, the Goodison Park club can again show their ambition and newfound aggression in the transfer market by completing a deal for the Inter man.
Although work permits could pose an issue for Everton to land their ideal striker, landing the man nicknamed Gabigol in his homeland for obvious reasons could deliver the Toffees fans a new cult figure in their attack – and push them towards the Premier League top four.