Assistant manager Eric Black admitted Sunderland could struggle to hold on to teenage striker Danny Welbeck if he continues in his rich vein of form.
Loan signing Welbeck, who will turn 20 on Friday, scored twice in last night's 2-2 draw with Everton, adding to his first goal for the club at Chelsea.
However, the Black Cats know their hopes of signing him on a permanent basis from Manchester United could be dashed if he remains on the goal trail.
Black said: "That's the problem you have to face. If we can concentrate on the first bit and he can be exceptional for us this year and score 15 goals, we will deal with the other bit when it comes.
"But first and foremost, we need to have the problem.
"He is an exceptionally good player. I see him every day in training and he has got fantastic ability.
"He has now got the confidence. Probably what has stunted his development is he has not been able to play regular football week in, week out.
"He is now getting that opportunity and he has grasped it. He has got phenomenal potential - that's probably why he is at one of the biggest clubs in the world - but hopefully he is flourishing here and hopefully we can hang on to him for as long as possible."
Welbeck looked to have won the game when, after cancelling out Tim Cahill's sixth-minute opener, he headed home a cross from Kieran Richardson to put them ahead for the first time.
Both Welbeck and Richardson looked to have come from offside positions during the build-up, but if Toffees boss David Moyes was annoyed by that, he at least left Wearside with some reward when Mikel Arteta's low shot was deflected past goalkeeper Craig Gordon by Phil Bardsley.
Either side could have won it in injury-time, Welbeck dragging a shot across the face of goal with Darren Bent in space and Everton substitute Jermaine Beckford blazing over the top with just Gordon to beat.
Everton number two Steve Round said of Beckford's blunder: "It's very unusual for him to miss that. We see him score goals all the time in training, he has done it all his career.
"When he went through, I was just waiting for the net to go.
"It was surprising that he missed, but it sort of sums up our season to date, that we get into those situations, but don't find the net.
"We are disappointed. We felt we had the opportunities to win the game - we have felt that in many games.
"We are sick of saying it. We are playing well enough to win, but just can't get over that final hurdle and win the game."
Meanwhile, Sunderland defender Titus Bramble could be facing six to eight weeks on the sidelines if the knee injury which kept him out last night requires surgery.Reuse content