LONDON • Romelu Lukaku began the week questioning whether Everton could match his ambition and ended it by taking his Premier League goal tally to 21, with two added-time strikes in a 4-0 rout of Hull on Saturday.
The Belgian is now clear at the top in the race for the Premier League's Golden Boot, with two more goals than Tottenham Hotspur's injured Harry Kane, after extending his hot streak to finish off relegation-haunted Hull at Goodison Park.
He is the first Everton player to score more 20 or more league goals in a season since Gary Lineker banged in 30 in the 1985-86 season. He is also only the fourth player after Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, and Wayne Rooney to reach 80 Premier League goals before the age of 24.
After reportedly declining to sign a new contract which would have made him Everton's highest-paid player ever, his days at the club appear numbered despite his goals having pushed them to the fringe of the battle for Champions League football. They are level with sixth-placed Arsenal on 50 points.
Manager Ronald Koeman, whose side notched a sixth successive home league win, said he had not given up hope on keeping Lukaku at the Merseyside club.
"The fans love Romelu Lukaku and everyone loves Rom. Yes, you may be able to hold him back for 85 minutes but then he was focused to the last second. We killed the game perfectly," the Dutchman said.
"You need to have hope in life. Of course we like to keep our best players and we will do the maximum... but the final decision will be with the player himself."
Whatever the Belgium striker decides, the future looks healthy for Everton with several young gems emerging.
One of them, 20-year-old Dominic Calvert-Lewin, opened the scoring after eight minutes on Saturday with his first Premier League goal - turning in a cross from 18-year-old teenager Tom Davies.
Everton had to wait until the 78th minute for Enner Valencia to double their lead shortly after Hull had midfielder Tom Huddlestone sent off. Lukaku added some late gloss.
"It's great of course, you like to be confident at home. We have had a great run at home," Koeman added.