No guarantees, but Koeman claims Lukaku extension is close
Everton manager Ronald Koeman says Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku is close to signing a new contract at the Premier League club.
Romelu Lukaku is close to signing a new long-term contract at Everton after becoming the club's record Premier League goalscorer, manager Ronald Koeman has confirmed.
Lukaku is second in the Premier League scoring charts this season, with 18 goals placing him one behind Tottenham's Harry Kane, and a return to the Belgian's former club Chelsea has been rumoured, although his agent Mino Raiola has said a renewal with Everton is "99.9999 per cent" completed.
The 23-year-old surpassed Duncan Ferguson's record of 60 top-flight goals for the club by scoring against Spurs on Sunday and Koeman claimed progress on Lukaku's contract extension is being made, although he dismissed suggestions a new deal would ensure Everton can keep Lukaku at Goodison Park for next season.
"Still not signed," Koeman told reporters on Thursday. "Close, yes. In football you don't get guarantees."
While confirmation of Lukaku's renewal appears to be imminent, Koeman is unclear what will happen to Gerard Deulofeu, who has impressed during a loan spell in Serie A with AC Milan, although contract talks are in the works for Ross Barkley.
"I don't know [about Deulofeu]," Koeman said. "We know that until the end of the season he is an Everton player and then we need to make decisions. Every question is about players for next season and it's not important at the moment. At the moment what is important is Saturday.
"The situation about these players who will finish their contract after one year, ok he [Barkley] is one of them and we will do everything to keep Ross and to sign a new contract. The talks are planned.
"A lot of questions about next season and we have to play a lot, this weekend is the most important and what will happen for next season will happen next season, it's not for now."
Everton host West Brom on Saturday and will close in on sixth-placed Manchester United if they win their fifth straight home league game, with Koeman targeting six points from the match and next weekend's clash with Hull City.
"First objective for Saturday is to win the game and make the distance [to eighth-placed West Brom] to seven points," Koeman said. "That is a big gap and I still believe in when we win the next two games at home still something is possible above us in the table but that starts with six points and starts on Saturday to win the game. Arsenal are strong and they can struggle for a week or two weeks but they are strong and have good players and it will be tough to catch them but maybe after six points we come more close and maybe something is possible.
"It starts always by yourself, don't look too much to other teams, if we win we come close but that starts with ourselves. It's a big test because [West Brom] are really strong defensively and everybody knows their productivity out of set plays. They have scored 36 goals, 16 out of set plays, 12 from corners and we know because they scored one against us. It's difficult and we need to be at our best and defend against the strengths of West Brom.
"I don't like to speak too much about the end of the season but if we finish seventh we can be happy."