Romelu Lukaku has always been a fan favourite at Goodison Park since joining Everton initially on loan in 2013, but the love appears to be reaching new heights after the striker scored his 60th Premier League goal for the Toffees.
The Belgian equalled Duncan Ferguson's Premier League club record with his second-half goal in Everton's 2-0 victory over Sunderland at the weekend. Everyone associated with the club are hopeful Lukaku will sign a new long-term deal at Everton, and the signs are certainly promising.
Lukaku '99.9999%' certain to stay at Everton
Lukaku signed for Everton from Chelsea for £28million in 2014, after a loan spell at the club, and he has two years left on his initial five-year contract. The Toffees are desperate to tie their star man down to a new contract and the signs are certainly encouraging for the Everton fans.
Having stated back in December that he was "99.9 per cent" sure Lukaku would pen a new deal at Goodison Park, the Belgian's agent, Mino Raiola, told Talksport earlier this week that he is now "99.9999 per cent" sure his client will sign a new long-term contract at Everton.
Raiola said at the moment "we are signing a contract with Everton," but added that football contracts are sometimes "not there to be gone to the end " and "if everyone thinks it is better to move on, then that will be done at that moment."
Everton's director of football Steve Walsh believes signing a new contract at the club is the "logical step" for the 23-year-old and he said Everton are "really hopeful" that it will happen. When asked about Lukaku's future, Walsh said that "once you've got success at a football club you get a feeling for it."
Walsh added that "there's a real feeling that Everton's a real football club and he's part and parcel of that," before saying "I think he would like to continue with that."
Lukaku's future a 'waiting game', says Koeman
Ronald Koeman admitted, however, that the future of Lukaku is a waiting game as he "understands" the player's ambition to play in the Champions League. The Everton boss said it is only "normal" for every player and every manager to have ambitions in football, before adding that "if you don't have ambition, stop playing football and stop life because you need ambitions to get the best out of yourself."
Koeman said that the best Everton can do is to "show everybody that we are growing as a club and fighting for titles." However, he admits he "understands" it's "normal" for player's wanting to play in the Champions League and he admitted "we will see what will happen with Romelu."
As far as Lukaku is concerned, his focus is on his performances and continuing to improve and said "my agent has been doing the [contract] talks." The Belgian said "I think you can see from what I do on the pitch that I am really happy here," before adding he wants to "keep as going as well as I can." The 23-year-old said "if you look at the best players in the world they are constantly improving" and "I want to keep getting better year after year."
Can Everton hold onto the striker?
Many Everton supporters expected Lukaku to leave in the summer after the player stated his desire to play Champions League football earlier this year. But, despite attracting interest from a number of clubs including Chelsea, Manchester United and Paris Saint Germain, the Belgian agreed in August to remain at Goodison Park for another season.
A long-term deal for Lukaku would certainly be a huge statement by Everton, but a new contract doesn't offer any guarantees that the 23-year-old's long-term future will be on Merseyside. A new contract would be a big sign of intent and it would certainly boost the value of the player if clubs were to try and sign the striker in the summer or next season.
If Everton are going to keep hold of their striker, it will take more than a new contract. The Blues need to match Lukaku's ambition and potential. The only way they can do that is by making Lukaku's ambitions of Champion League football a reality.