Clarke hopeful of keeping Lukaku
Steve Clarke believes West Bromwich Albion are well placed to secure the services of Romelu Lukaku again next season - unless Chelsea already see him as first-team material at Stamford Bridge.
The Hawthorns head coach pulled off a master stroke with one of his former clubs when he signed the prodigious teenager last summer on a year's loan.
And Clarke believes the Baggies are in a good position to have the striker for a further year if the Blues decide to farm him out for a second time to harness his considerable talents.
"It's something that will come up for discussion in the summer," Clarke said. "Chelsea are his parent club, he is their player and they will decide what they want to do first and foremost. Then, after that, hopefully we will get a chance to put ourselves in the hat.
"If Chelsea want to leave him out for another season somewhere, I think we would have a strong chance of getting him back here but it is a discussion for the summer."
For now, Clarke is thrilled that he has been the lucky manager to benefit from the emergence of the teenage Belgium international, who was taken to London from Anderlecht in 2011 for a fee that could eventually rise to £17 million.
Lukaku has delivered 12 goals in his first season of regular Premier League football - including both in Saturday's home victory over Sunderland - and has made himself a big favourite in the Black Country.
"It's good for us that everybody sees he's a good player because we've had the benefit of his good performances and his goals, and it's been good for Romelu, Chelsea and us," Clarke said. "It's a package that has been good for all three parties. For such a young player, the sky is the limit.
"He has all the attributes to be a really top player. He is very level-headed and he understands why he came here and what he has got to do in the future to be a big player at a really big club.
"We will just try to help him along the way with that. We're just pleased that he chose to come to us to get more minutes on the pitch in the Premier League."
Clarke is aware that Chelsea would have seen the player as a long-term investment, splashing out the fortune they did on one so young.
"To make that kind of investment in an 18-year-old, as he was at the time, was significant," he said. "With a lot of good young players, by and large, they tend to understand what they have to be to be good players and Romelu fits into that category.
"It's refreshing for me as a coach to work with a young player with the attitude that he wants to be the best and improve every day. He's one of those players I have to drag in off the training field and say 'you need to get inside now, go and have a shower and get ready for tomorrow's session'. He would stay out all day. He wants to get better all the time, which is a great attribute to have."
Albion are unable to use Lukaku against his parent club at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.