Everton manager Ronald Koeman admits the club have to prove their ambitions to Romelu Lukaku in order to keep the striker at Goodison Park.
In December, the Belgium international’s agent Mino Raiola claimed a new deal was “99 per cent done” and while the contract has not yet been finalised, he insisted on Thursday that Lukaku would sign it without any problems.
“There are no problems right now between the player and the club. Talks are ongoing. He will sign,” Raiola told talkSPORT.
Koeman claims not to know of any significant developments over the 23-year-old’s immediate future but with his four goals on Saturday making him the Premier League’s leading scorer it would make sense for the Toffees to conclude negotiations quickly.
However, the manager knows unless they can back up that commitment with progress on the field it will not help in the long-term.
“I didn’t speak to the board about Romelu. If his agent mentioned he likes to stay and he will sign a new deal that is perfect for Everton,” said Koeman.
“Normally if players see a future in the club and the team is improving and getting stronger every day that is always a plus for them to stay.
“That is what we need to show him so he is convinced the short future is at Everton.
“We know everyone has their own ambition – that’s only human – but we want to keep the good players and he is one of those.
“He is top scorer in the league at the moment and is playing at a high level and is so clinical it would be difficult to find a replacement for him and for that I hope he will stay.
“He can and he must improve and he knows and that is the most important thing.
“If the team is improving and showing ambition it is always a good thing for players to stay.
“The team is stronger now than it was at the start of the season and it is up to everyone to show we have ambition and are fighting to win titles.”
Koeman made a point of speaking to Lukaku when he returned from the European Championships in the summer to outline his plans and also what he expected from the player.
However, he made it clear his blueprint to take Everton forward was not just about one player.
“From day one that I have been working with Romelu he is the perfect professional,” he added.
“He likes to improve and he likes to train hard. If the team is working hard normally he will score the goals: the team makes Romelu the top scorer.
“You need to have a striker with that quality of finishing but you can’t do it yourself.
“Everton as a club is more important than a manager or the players.”
Lukaku’s future is not the only one being speculated on, with Koeman being linked with a return to former club Barcelona to become their new manager.
His former agent Guido Albers, who also represents Frank de Boer, told TuttoMercatoWeb his client was unlikely to be in contention for the job as the Catalans were casting their eyes at his compatriot.
“Frank is a piece of Barcelona history, but I think the club has in mind other coaches – like Ronald Koeman, now at Everton,” said Albers.
However, Koeman was quick to cut down any speculation.
“He is not any more my manager. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing,” he said when asked about the link.
“I will always be related to Barcelona – it happened in the past and it will happen in the future.”