Belgium v England: Collective reward is what drives Martinez's Red Devils

Belgium manager 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.

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez. Picture: AP/Matthias Schrader
Belgium coach Roberto Martinez. Picture: AP/Matthias Schrader

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 today’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.

We'LL MEET AGAIN: England manager Gareth Southgate (left) and Belgium manager Roberto Martinez shake hands after their Group G match at Kaliningrad Stadium. Picture: Tim Goode/PA

“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 his development.

“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.”

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.

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

“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.”