Striker Romelu Lukaku says next step must be the Champions League, throwing Everton and Chelsea future into doubt

The Belgian is currently on loan at Goodison Park

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The Independent Football

Romelu Lukaku has challenged Chelsea's manager, Jose Mourinho, to bring him back to club by admitting he is desperate to play in next season's Champions League.

The Belgium striker has scored nine Premier League goals for Everton since joining them on a season-long loan but will miss Wednesday's meeting with Crystal Palace at Goodison Park with an ankle injury. Yet, with the prospects of Roberto Martinez's side finishing in the top four receding, after recent defeats to Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur, Lukaku is adamant that it is time to test himself at the very highest level.

"It is high time that I play in the Champions League. It is the next step I need in my development. Full stop," he said. "I still have two years on my contract and I know Chelsea follow my development. In the end it depends on what the manager thinks about me."

Palace's manager, Tony Pulis, has challenged his players to maintain the momentum that has secured 19 points from his first 13 games in charge

"I'd have taken where we are now when I took the job. I'd have bitten your hand off," he said. "The results have been outstanding. The players have been outstanding. But we have a very difficult run of games coming up."