Koeman keen to tie down 'world-class' Lukaku with new contract
Ronald Koeman said Romelu Lukaku's finishing ability is comparable to that of his legendary Dutch team-mate Marco van Basten as he cautiously welcomed fresh claims that the striker would sign a new Everton deal.
Lukaku's agent, Mino Raiola, has reiterated that the Belgian will sign a new contract. In December, the representative said terms were "99.9 per cent" agreed, prompting the question as to why there has been any delay. Everton are naturally eager for Lukaku to put pen to paper to make him their highest-paid player.
Koeman said he does not trust the word of agents, but he has seen and heard enough from Lukaku to know the forward believes Everton are moving in the right direction.
And the manager was lavish in his praise of the Premier League's top goalscorer. Asked directly if Lukaku's finishing matched that of Van Basten, Koeman said: "Yes. He's one of the best, even comparing him to the players in my time.
"He is world-class in his finishing. He is that good but he needs to improve in a total picture of a player - but that part of him is world-class."
Everton want Lukaku's contract situation resolved before rival clubs start to be encouraged to prepare a summer bid, and Koeman is awaiting developments with caution despite the comments from Raiola.
"I don't believe agents. It's no issue for now. Playing on Saturday is more important," said Koeman. "If his agent said he likes to stay and wants to sign a new deal that is important to Everton.
"It is really good and important for the club, for the team and for me [if he signs] because at the moment it means we can keep the best players and he has seen a future in this club. That is really positive. He is clinical and it would be difficult to find a replacement for him."
Meanwhile, Barcelona are to appeal against the two-match ban given to Luis Suarez following his sending-off in Tuesday's Copa del Rey semi-final against Atletico Madrid. Suarez was handed his marching orders after picking up two late bookings in the 1-1 Nou Camp draw - a result that saw holders Barca progress 3-2 on aggregate.
The ban, which was handed down by the competition judge yesterday after Barca launched a first appeal against Suarez's red card on Wednesday, would rule the Uruguay striker out of May's final against Alaves but the Catalan giants are hoping to get the decision overturned. (© Daily Telegraph, London)