Romelu Lukaku’s importance to Everton was underlined by his 19th Premier League goal this season on Saturday and Toffees boss Ronald Koeman quipped he might have to sign his prospective new deal himself.
The 23-year-old drew level with Harry Kane in the race for the top-flight’s golden boot having headed in the third goal in Everton’s 3-0 success over West Brom at Goodison Park.
Though there are 10 games still remaining, Lukaku has already claimed his best-ever Premier League tally and such a feat will make Toffees supporters even keener to see the Belgian pen the contract he has been on the verge of signing since December.
“It’s still close to being signed – maybe I need to sign that contract then we can finish with all the stories,” Koeman joked.
“What we like is that strikers find the best position at the time in the game and normally that is around the box.
“But sometimes if you drop to the left or right that makes space for other players and that was the message before the game: we need running players.”
That was exactly what Lukaku did in the build up to his team’s first two goals as Everton’s dangerman pulled out to the right before feeding passes inside during moves that led to Kevin Mirallas and then Morgan Schneiderlin scoring.
A fifth straight home win in the division was achieved in comfortable fashion, though it came without James McCarthy’s involvement after the midfielder’s latest hamstring problem.
McCarthy’s issues have restricted him to only seven Premier League starts this term and Koeman is keen to get to the bottom of it.
“We need to deal with his fitness,” he added. “He played 30-35 minutes last week and then we need to put him in the recovery group after the game.
“That’s what we need to learn; I’m not a doctor but what I’d like is the best for him. That’s difficult.
“It’s another step back for the boy and that’s really disappointing. We need to find a solution.”
The 26-year-old’s fitness was a bone of contention when he was selected for the Republic of Ireland earlier in the campaign and his country’s latest squad is announced on Monday.
Asked if he expects Martin O’Neill to pick him then, Koeman replied: “I don’t know. We know it will be another nine, 10 days (before the game) and the FIFA rule is that they have the possibility to call the player. If they call the player the player will go and they will see how his fitness is at that time.”
Defeat for West Brom followed Crystal Palace’s win over them seven days earlier and represented only the third time this season Tony Pulis’ Baggies had lost back-to-back Premier League fixtures.
“We need to get back to winning ways as soon as possible,” captain Darren Fletcher told West Brom’s official website.
“We’ve lost two in a row, it’s not nice and we’re not used to it this season. It shows how far we’ve come and how much of a good season we’re having, but we don’t want it to be 40 points and that’s the end of the season.”