West Brom manager Steve Clarke is hopeful of bringing Romelu Lukaku back to the club on loan from Chelsea next season.
The Belgian has enjoyed a fine campaign at the Hawthorns, notching 13 Premier League goals in 30 games, and has already claimed he would be happy to spend another season away from Stamford Bridge next term.
Clarke hopes the success Lukaku has enjoyed with the club this season could stand them in good stead for bringing him back, but is still formulating plans that do not include the 19-year-old.
“We have to develop the squad without knowing if he’ll be back,” Clarke said. “We have to plan for him not returning.
“All I would say is that if he goes back out on loan I think we’re in a good position to get him again.
“He loves it here, he’s been positive about the club, he’s been nominated for PFA Young Player of the Year, which tells you that he’s had a good season, so I think he will be happy here.”
The Scot takes his side to Southampton on Saturday and has hailed the work done by Mauricio Pochettino to steer his side to safety in the Premier League since taking over in January.
“He [Pochettino] has done well. It is difficult to come in and pick things up halfway through the league season,” Clarke added.
“He has got a good group of players and earlier in the season when Nigel [Adkins] was there they played good football. I think at that stage the players were searching to find their feet in the Premier League.
“The change of manager has coincided with them finding their feet in the league. They play good football, they are attractive – certainly at home they are dangerous. It is a difficult game for us.
“His team has been a bit more aggressive – something we have spoken about this week and something we have to deal with. You will see the results on Saturday.
“When I look at the talent on the squad it does not surprise they have got where they are.
“You might feel they need a win to be safe but they are pretty much safe and I am sure they will be in the division next year and stronger for it.”