The 2015/16 campaign is one of the most open for years, but Everton are falling short of getting involved in the race, while less fancied teams like Watford and Crystal Palace threaten the top four.
The Toffees have won only one of their last six games and have slipped to 11th in the table, defeated 4-3 by Stoke City at the weekend.
In fairness that was a game which could have gone either way, but the season's results do not reflect well on a team which under David Moyes used to challenge higher up the table, and that was without a striker as dynamic or in form as Lukaku, who has netted 14 times already this season.
Crooks told The BBC, while selecting Lukaku in his Team of the Week: "It was a great pity that a team had to lose after such a classic 4-3 encounter with the Potters. However, Everton boss Martinez needs to be careful how he handles this striker.
"Champions League football is the next stage of Lukaku's development and if he is not playing it with Everton next season then who?"
Everton are nine points back from fourth place, despite being the league's third highest goalscorers this season, netting more times than Arsenal or Tottenham.
Lukaku is not a player Everton will sell cheaply, nor would they willingly decide to do so, but as Crooks points out, they need to keep him onside and get him believing they are moving forwards, otherwise he could, via his agent at least, begin to start pushing for a new challenge.
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