Fellaini rumours a sign of the times for Everton
After the trauma and uncertainty of recent summers, Everton’s bright start to the season has been a refreshing change, with one player standing out in particular.
September 14th, 2012
Marouane Fellaini has been immense. The big Belgian is usually a defensive midfielder, but has played much further forward so far this campaign, allowing him to use his size and strength to unsettle opposition defenders, holding the ball up and bringing team-mates into play.
He was head and shoulders (literally and metaphorically!) above everyone against Manchester United on the opening day, and he grabbed the only goal of the game as a deserved reward. Against Aston Villa the following week he played his part in an utterly dominant performance that should have yielded more than just the three goals in a 3-1 win.
He didn’t have the best of times against West Brom, but credit does have to go to Baggies boss Steve Clarke, who had done his homework on Fellaini and Everton, with his plan working perfectly.
Still, six points from nine and a transfer window that saw the squad strengthened with no regular first-teamers departing, left Evertonians feeling pretty satisfied with life.
It was typical therefore that Fellaini decided to open his mouth and drag us all back down to earth.
The 25-year-old was away on international duty when he suggested he may leave the club, even as soon as the January transfer window.
That sent the gossip makers and doom mongers into overdrive, causing the big Belgian to clarify his comments, insisting he was committed to the club.
But he still didn’t deny he would leave.
The former Standard Leige man only signed a five-year contract last winter so would command a hefty transfer fee, and I admit it could be a deal that would make a real difference to the club’s finances.
But this only goes to highlight the difficulty boss David Moyes has in trying to build a squad capable of competing at the top end of the table.
In a division where the silverware and glory is mainly restricted to three or four clubs, players who excel elsewhere are likely to get itchy feet.
Everton do tremendously well to compete at the top end of the table with the limited resources they have, but they will never break through that glass ceiling without significant investment.
Everton know that, the players know that and – crucially – so do their wealthier opponents.
The moment a Toffees star decides they want to move, the writing is on the wall. I’m pretty sure Leighton Baines could have forced a move away this summer had he wanted to, but the England man did not want to rock the boat, rendering United’s subtle tempts to unsettle him meaningless.
Fellaini, however, looks like he is already eyeing life beyond Goodison Park, meaning Moyes should start planning for the big Belgian’s departure.
A fee in excess of £30million – something a team like Chelsea probably wouldn’t hesitate to pay – would allow Moyes significant opportunities to re-build and add to his squad. Players come and go and despite being so instrumental in Everton’s play so far, there will be life after the big man.
The only worry for Everton fans is whether Moyes is ready to accept yet another one of his key pillars being removed, just as progress is being made. He would be much more difficult to replace.
The responsibility therefore, shifts beyond the Scot and to the board, who should show Moyes, Fellaini and the fans, they are ready to match the ambitions of the club’s best players, who have done everything asked of them so far this season.