Fulham boss Martin Jol concedes he does not know if he can keep the “unbelievable” Clint Dempsey at Craven Cottage long-term.
Dempsey turned in another outstanding performance with two goals in a comfortable 3-0 win at Bolton in the Barclays Premier League yesterday.
The versatile American, who struck with a superb long-range free-kick and a firm header, has now scored 21 times in all competitions this term.
With just one more season remaining on the 29-year-old’s contract, Fulham accept he could become an attractive target for other clubs and are keen to tie him to a new deal.
Jol said: “I can’t foresee the future. We want to keep him and hopefully he wants to stay. We have offered him a very good contract.
“He knows he is very appreciated at our club, so hopefully he will stay.
“If we want to be a top side we need players who can score more than 20 goals in all competitions.
“I have always had that – I can remember Luis Suarez scoring 53 goals for me at Ajax. He’s [Dempsey] not at that level yet but of course it is a different league and for a wide midfield player who can play up front and score that many goals, it is unbelievable.”
In the absence of Pavel Pogrebnyak, Dempsey was back playing a centre forward’s role at Bolton and troubled the relegation-threatened hosts throughout.
He opened the scoring on the half-hour when he asked to take a free-kick ahead of Bryan Ruiz and John Arne Riise, and justified his confidence firing into the top corner.
His second came on the stroke of half-time as Damien Duff beat Marcos Alonso – not for the last time – and crossed for him at the back post.
He could have had a third hat-trick of the season after linking well with Alex Kacaniklic but shot narrowly wide.
Mahamadou Diarra wrapped up the win by turning in a Riise cross 10 minutes from time.
Dempsey said: “I hadn’t got too many goals away from home this season.
“It is good to add to that and good for us to get three points away from home. We are excited about that, we can add to that.
“I have never got these type of numbers before – 21 for the season, 15 for the league.
“I am happy with that return and we have still got some games left, so hopefully I can chip in with a few more.”
Fulham’s win consolidated their position in mid-table but they face a quick turnaround as they host neighbours Chelsea tomorrow night.
Jol is keen to build some momentum but is not expecting any let-up from a Chelsea side still challenging on three fronts.
As well as pushing for a top-four position, the Blues have an FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham and a Champions League last-four clash with Barcelona in the coming days.
Jol said: “I feel the league is very important to them and you can focus, of course, on Barcelona, but they are a different team.
“They are playing unbelievable football and I think, of course, they have to focus on the Champions League but they have to focus on the Premier League as well.
“I think they have to look at it game by game and after that you can see what they have achieved.
“There is a lot of games coming up for them but I feel if they want to be in the top four or top three they have to win their league games as well. I think they have enough players to cope with that.
“You can’t say we are playing for Europe but I think we have got too many points to be looking at the bottom of the table.
“I think the only thing is to try to create a winning mentality in our team and get as many points as possible.”
Fulham will be without forward Ruiz, who suffered a suspected broken metatarsal at Bolton, but Pogrebnyak and veteran midfielder Danny Murphy could return after an ankle injury and illness, respectively.