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What is Lukaku's future? Assessing the Everton striker's options

What is Lukaku's future? Assessing the Everton striker's options

ESPN

The chances are that Everton's Romelu Lukaku will score at West Ham on Saturday, considering he has netted in each of the past nine fixtures between the two clubs.

It has been an eventful week for the Belgium international striker, who scored his Premier League-leading 24th goal of the season in a 3-1 win against Burnley, was named in the PFA Team of the Yearand has been the subject of considerable speculation over his future.

Here, ESPN FC lays out the factors that are in play for Lukaku.

1. Why is his contract still unsigned

Having been expected to sign a new deal last month, Lukaku pulled out and suggested that his ambitions stretch further than a club fighting for a place in the top six, saying: "You need the platform to establish yourself as one of the game's best strikers. Then you are talking about Champions League and whatever types of games."

That flew against his agent Mino Raiola's previous declaration that Lukaku was "99.99999999" percent likely to stay at Goodison Park, instead suggesting that other options are being considered.

2. Will he stay at Everton

"If someone is interested for sure they will call the board and then we will speak about it, but we will try to do everything to keep him at Everton next season," said manager Ronald Koeman on Thursday.

A hardball price of 100 million has been set by majority owner Farhad Moshiri and the billionaire's wealth means Everton no longer need to be a selling club Lukaku may be made to wait out a contract that runs until 2019.

3. If he does leave, is Chelsea the most likely destination

A vacancy for a line-leading, target man striker could become open at Stamford Bridge, with Diego Costa unsettled. After being linked with a move away from Chelsea in January, reports suggest the Premier League leaders are ready to sell, withTianjin Quanjianof the Chinese Super League circling.

Chelsea are not short of money to spend, especially after recouping 60m for Oscar from Shanghai SIPG in January. However, what may complicate any deal being struck, even at that price, is the residual effect on club-to-club relations stemming from Chelsea's aggressive pursuit of John Stones in the summer of 2015. Moreover, Antonio Conte may have other ideas in terms of forward targets, with Torino's Andrea Belotti probably a much cheaper alternative.

Lukaku has unfinished business at the club he joined as an 18-year-old, before being loaned out to West Brom and Everton, the latter of which he joined permanently in a 28m transfer in the summer of 2014. He made just 10 Chelsea appearances in three years.

4. Are Manchester United also interested

Strikers lead the wanted list at Old Trafford after a season of poor performances in front of goal. Zlatan Ibrahimovic's future was uncertain even before he suffered a knee injury in Thursday's Europa League quarterfinal victory over Anderlecht. Interest in Atletico Madrid's Antoine Griezmann has been an open secret since last autumn.

United have shown a willingness to pay big fees and, last summer, signed Raiola clients Ibrahimovic, Paul Pogba and Henrikh Mkhitaryan. The stumbling block might be Jose Mourinho, who jettisoned Lukaku from Chelsea.

Lukaku does not fit the profile of strikers that Mourinho favours. His best forwards have been Derlei at Porto, Didier Drogba in his first Chelsea spell, Ibrahimovic and Diego Milito at Inter Milan and Costa when he returned to Chelsea each had a combativeness that Lukaku does not always exhibit.

5. Might he go elsewhere in Europe

In March 2016, Lukaku's father Rogersaid: "There is interest from Atletico Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus, Chelsea and Manchester United."

At the high price Everton demand, it is tough to see any of those clubs paying out. Though Bayern's team is ageing, Robert Lewandowski is their leading man and signed a contract until 2021 in December. Atletico, even if Griezmann leaves, would seem to have been priced out and are more likely to re-sign Costa.

Juventus, with Paulo Dybala signed up until 2022 and having paid 90m for Gonzalo Higuain last year, seem even more unlikely. Lukaku admitted this week that he watches Real Madrid TV, but a move to either the Santiago Bernabeu or Barcelona seems implausible.

6. Is Lukaku worth it

The stats are striking, with 86 goals in 161 appearances in all competitions for Everton giving him an admirable goals-to-game ratio. Only Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Wayne Rooney scored more Premier League goals before their 24th birthday and Lukaku may surpass Rooney's 86 by the end of the season he is two short at present and will be 24 on May 13.

And yet there are doubts over Lukaku delivering at a bigger club than Everton, where he is not the leading light. "He is working hard and improving," said Koeman this week, but questions remain regarding how much improvement can be made and especially at such a price.

Lukaku's Euro 2016 performances were unspectacular aside from two goals against the Republic of Ireland, whose defenders were of a quality he is used to punishing at Premier League level this season, 19 of his goals have come against the league's bottom 10 sides.

7. What happens next

With two years left on his contract, this summer will be decisive. Everton's resolve will be tested and a Chelsea return seems most likely, though an extended stay on Merseyside cannot be ruled out.

John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.

ESPN