Everton boss Ronald Koeman expects Romelu Lukaku to remain a transfer target for Europe’s heavyweight clubs, despite staying put at Goodison Park.
Lukaku was linked with a return to Everton’s weekend opponents Chelsea during the summer, but ultimately opted to remain with the Toffees.
However, the 23-year-old has already netted seven Premier League goals this season and Koeman is not kidding himself that the Belgian international’s form won’t have alerted other suitors.
"He is a big striker who will always generate interest from big clubs and from bigger clubs than Everton but the boy is 23 and he took the right decision to stay," said Koeman.
"He can improve and he needs to improve. That's good because it is very difficult to get a replacement for a player who compares to Romelu, maybe impossible.
"I was a little bit afraid to lose the player."
Koeman insists that Lukaku will be going nowhere in the January transfer window, but admits a departure next summer could be a possibility.
"Maybe we will get the same problem next season. I read some stories in the press about January – no way, no way," he said.
"Bayern Munich, Juventus, [Real] Madrid, Barcelona? He stays until the end of the season at least.
"OK, that needs to be the next step for him and then we as Evertonian people can be proud that he made that step, but let's score goals. That's the best answer he can give on the pitch."