Roberto Martinez: Team matters more to Romelu Lukaku than individual awards

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez says beating England to third place at the World Cup means more to Romelu Lukaku than pipping Harry Kane to the Golden Boot.

The England captain tops the tournament scoring charts with six goals, two ahead of Lukaku, and the pair are likely to go head to head in Saturday’s third-place play-off in Saint Petersburg.

That is likely to provide one of the sub-plots in a fixture neither side wanted to be playing, but Martinez insists taking a podium place is more important than personal accolades.

“Romelu is here to help the team perform, not for individual awards,” said the Spaniard, who was celebrating his 45th birthday.

“We don’t look at that sort of reward and Romelu is the first to show that with his play. We had a moment against Japan where Romelu has the ball in the box, the last second of the game.

“Any striker that thinks he has 50 per cent chance of a goal takes that, but he made one of the best assists in the tournament.

“Other awards are more interesting to us. To be able to finish third, the best finish for the Belgian national team, would be an achievement we salute more than individual awards.”

Martinez has history with the striker, first coaching him as a teenager with Everton, and has marvelled at the player he has become.

“If you ask me ‘is he the best in the world?’, yes,” he said.

“But I am biased. I worked first with him when he was 19 and I’ve seen an incredible, incredible journey in his career.

“His numbers throughout his career are very difficult (to achieve). His biggest attribute is he is a goalscorer and a finisher.”

Martinez led his side to victory over England when the teams met in the group stage but has noted the positive changes in a country where he spent the majority of his playing and coaching career.

Romelu Lukaku has scored four goals at the World Cup
Romelu Lukaku has scored four goals at the World Cup (Thanassis Stavrakis/AP)

“It’s fair to say English football has had a real feeling of being able to achieve now,” he said.

“St George’s Park has brought that, it is a place of debate, a tactical floor, a place for sharing ideas. With the success of their under-17s and under-20s you could easily see English football at international level has been changing these last few seasons.”

Martinez has been linked with the vacant Spain job after the tournament and was invited by a Belgian journalist to guarantee he would still be with the side in two years’ time.

He responded: “No, I can’t. In this business lose two games and you want to get me out. How can I guarantee that?”

Football Paradise Staff Reporter

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