In the grand scheme of things, Romelu Lukaku’s performance against Hull may not have been that significant for Everton fans, but for those externally looking in, it underlined the maturing process of a player who is now letting his feet do the talking.
Lukaku has never previously hidden his desire to move elsewhere virtually since he joined Everton for £28m in the summer of 2014. It’s felt almost inevitable that his talent would one day enable him to reach a level whereby Goodison Park simply cannot provide a sufficient level of football for him and, after taking his tally to 21 for the Premier League season, it looks all the more likely that Everton’s fears have come to fruition.
The 23-year-old has just over two years remaining on his current contract and will not sign a fresh deal with the club this summer, despite their willingness to make him their highest paid player on £140,000-a-week.
Everton, though, aren’t yet giving up home on keeping their talisman beyond the end of the season, with Ronald Koeman insisting the club and he personally "will do the maximum" to keep him at the club.
But for all the money and promises Everton can offer the Belgian, they don’t have the one thing Lukaku is desperately in search of: Champions League football. He will turn 24 in May and consequently would no longer be consider a bludgeoning talent, rather a player approaching the peak years of his career and in need to really test himself at the highest standard to prove his credentials.
Still, his method of pursuing that Champions League dream appears to have altered with this maturity. Gone, it seems, are the days of Mino Raiola persistently undermining Everton’s status as his employers as he looked to secure a big-money transfer for his client.
In April 2015, Raiola said: “If we had met each other earlier, he wouldn’t have played for Everton.
“Maybe somewhere else, maybe he would still be at Chelsea. I want to be clear: Romelu is a better striker than Diego Costa and could have done the same as the Spaniard did this season. But the Chelsea directors had decided to buy another star than giving confidence to one of their young boys.”
The noise reverberating off the pitch was once deafening in comparison to the production on it, but even the recent contract saga has been relatively underplayed. Neither Lukaku nor Raiola have publicly addressed the situation and it was clear to see from the striker’s performance against Hull - during which he scored twice and gained an assist - that his focus was firmly on showing his quality.
Previous situations may not have been handled in such a courteous manner by Lukaku’s camp, but going slightly under the radar this time around, from a perspective of character, won’t damage his cause whatsoever.
Regardless of how he attempts to secure himself a transfer this summer, Lukaku will scarcely have a shortage of potential suitors, albeit who will likely be required to fork out an offer of at least £60m to secure his services. Chelsea and Manchester United are keeping tabs on his situation but any possible move may be dictated by the futures of Diego Costa and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, respectively.
Lukaku retains a soft spot for Chelsea and, should Costa finally get his own move away from Stamford Bridge, seems an ideal replacement for the Spanish international. Given the fact Chelsea have been prepared to bite the bullet and bring back Nemanja Matic and David Luiz after selling them, they’re unlikely to be fazed by the prospect of taking a hit on another ex-player.
A move to Old Trafford to link up with Jose Mourinho appears completely reliant on the future of Ibrahimovic, who has been offered the chance to join LA Galaxy and become the highest-paid player in MLS history at the end of the Premier League season.
A move abroad, though, looks less likely, with Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain - the clubs most likely to afford him - all content with their current front lines.
For all of the speculation coming his way, the only thing that should be on Lukaku’s mind is performing for Everton and seeing what he can consequently reap from it. So long as he keeps doing what he did against Hull, he will undoubtedly get what he has been looking for.