Paying Lukaku £250,000 a week would be 'an absolute bargain'

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The striker could be the difference between his side reaching the Champions League or not, claims a former Goodison Park favourite

Everton should do whatever it takes to keep Romelu Lukaku, even if it means paying him £250,000 a week, according to Tony Cottee, who believes such a pay packet would ultimately prove "an absolute bargain".

Lukaku hints at Everton exit

Lukaku says he has made a decision on his future after reportedly turning down a contract extension with Everton just weeks after his agent Mino Raiola insisted an agreement was "99.9 per cent done".

Chelsea have been strongly linked with a move to re-sign Lukaku, who still has two years to run on his deal but has regularly spoken of his desire to play in the Champions League and win trophies.

Cottee thinks his former club should do everything they can to ensure the striker stays at Goodison Park.

"The Lukaku situation is frustrating," Cottee, who spent six years at Everton in his playing career, told Sky Sports.

Martinez: Lukaku can be the best

"If you are an Everton fan, you want it to be sorted out. You don't want to be reading that your top striker is 99 per cent certain of signing a contract and then, all of a sudden, he is not going to sign.

"I think only that man himself, Lukaku, knows the answer to it. If it is about money, give him whatever he wants. Even if it is £250,000-a-week.

"If you keep that player and he scores the goals that get you in the Champions League, it is an absolute bargain."

Lukaku has scored 21 Premier League goals in 28 matches this season, putting him two clear of Harry Kane at the top of the goal charts.

Cottee is confident Everton would secure a top-four finish in the Premier League in 2017-18 if Lukaku was to stay.

"I think he owes Everton one more season," he added. "I don't agree that Everton aren't going in the right direction, they are looking at a brand new stadium.

"If they were to beat Liverpool, they are hot on their heels, and have an outside chance still of getting in the Champions League.

"Next season they will be pushing more, spending money, and they will have a real charge at it. I think he should stay for one more season."

Belgium coach Roberto Martinez - formerly Lukaku's manager at Everton - tipped him to become the world's best number nine prior to the match against Greece, in which the striker scored a late equaliser.

Cottee added: "The one thing you can't deny is he is still only 23 years of age, he has been in outstanding form this season, and he is one of the top strikers in Europe.

"Some people would say, if he doesn't want to be there, you cash in and you get the money. But, you try replacing him. Get your £50m, £60m, and try finding a striker that is going to fit that criteria."