It may officially be Day One of the summer transfer window, but a number of Premier League clubs have already gone about their business, or at least made their intentions in the transfer market well known.
At Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers has seeked to beat his rivals to his summer targets by signing them early on, with four arrivals already making their way to Anfield, whilst, despite it being the 1st of July, Manchester City’s cumulative transfer total already adds up to £45million following hefty investments in Jesus Navas and Fernandinho.
Yet, for one particular Premier League player, the transfer rumours have gone surprisingly cold -Everton’s Marouane Fellaini. The Belgian international has seemed destined for a higher calling for some time, and with the last campaign marking his strongest in England to date – with 11 goals and 5 assists in 36 Premier League appearances – the tabloids have been speculating a summer move from as early as last September.
Yet, suddenly, it seems the alleged ‘done deals’ with Arsenal and Chelsea, rumoured by the red tops throughout the season, in addition to the proposed move to Old Trafford, to follow former employer and new Manchester United boss David Moyes, are far from complete.
Why has no one made a bid for the master of the Bel-fro? Is it simply due to finance, clubs biding their time or the fact that it’s the first day of the summer transfer window? Or are there more sinister and intrinsic reasons behind the apparent lack of interest?
Of course, it could well come down to the fact the transfer window has officially only been open for a matter of hours. Whilst some managers clearly prefer the tactic of getting their transfer targets to sign on the dotted line as quickly as possible, others operate with an air of caution, and wouldn’t risk to play their hand in the transfer market too soon.
Similarly, £23million – Fellaini’s contractual release clause – is a lot of money to part with, especially considering there are cheaper, and in some cases younger, alternatives available. Yohan Cabaye could be available for £5million less, and comes with equal Premier League credibility, whilst PSV’s Kevin Strootman, Ajax’s Christian Eriksen and Barcelona’s Thiago Alcantara represent the young berth of technically gifted central midfielders available this summer who all come with fees around the £15million mark, and continental powerhouses Luis Gustavo, Xabi Alonso and Alex Song could also be looking for new homes.
Fellaini strikes the balance between age, ability and potential better than any other midfielder on the market from the perspective of a top end Premier League club, but it’s understandable considering some of the other candidates that clubs are slightly put off by his price-tag.
But is that really the issue, considering the calibre of club Fellaini is said to be attracting, namely the Premiership’s top four? Arsenal’s pursuit of Gonzalo Higuain has undoubtedly put other transfer ventures on hold, yet Man City have already spent bold and big on Fernandinho, rejecting the possibility of signing the Belgian in the process, whilst Manchester United and Chelsea are hardly clubs you’d describe as being cautious when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is.
Combine the lack of development regarding Fellaini’s departure from Goodison Park, in addition to the fact that most Everton fans will tell you their talismanic forward is actually being window-shopped to potential suitors, effectively with a rather huge ‘for sale at £23million sign dangling around his neck, and you begin to see a different picture of the lanky midfielder.
For all of Fellaini’s positives, and indeed there are many – such as his height, which has proved vital at both ends of the pitch for the Toffees, his gifted technical ability for a man of his size, his capability to find the net with both feet and with his head, his work-rate and stamina, and his unprecedented chest control that is yet to be matched throughout world football – there are undoubtedly some counteracting negatives.
The 25 year old’s attitude over the years, and even this season alone, despite his hot form for the first half of Everton’s strong campaign, has been questionable to say the least. Some were calling for a nine-match ban following his outing against Stoke, where Fellaini was caught on camera making contact via his fists and forehead with the faces of three separate Potters defenders on three separate occasions, whilst an equally as embarrassing display against Wigan in the FA Cup, strolling around and throwing the professional footballer’s equivalent of a temper tantrum after his side went 3-0 down to the Latics, leading to booing from the Goodison faithful, painted the midfielder in a rather unattractive light.
It’s not the kind of temperament you’d expect from a player at a club where Sir Alex Ferguson is involved, albeit in an advisory capacity, and you wouldn’t imagine Jose Mourinho have too much time for that manner of behaviour either.
Similarly, Fellaini has arguably become a victim of his own versatility at times this season. As a supporting striker, he’s notched up 11 goals and five assists, yet the Belgian would be used in a much more defensive vein should he move to a bigger club. It’s a role that he is used to and can provide equally as vital performances in, yet potential suitors will remain unsure about what exactly they are buying.
Is Fellaini simply an anchor man and nothing more when plying his trade at a European standard club? Is it possible to use him predominantly as an attacker at a higher level, or will his raw attributes in terms of height and power be more easily found out? Whilst Fellaini possesses a unique skills set which makes him capable of performing in both roles, does he have what it takes to excel in either at the level of consistency required for clubs who regularly make it to the knock-out stages of the Champions League and are expected to attain at least one piece of silverware per season?
It seems that there are more question marks than answers when it comes to Fellaini, and his £23million price tag does not fairly represent the level of risk involved. He is no doubt one of the Premier League’s best performers, and even this season he’s put some of the top flight’s biggest clubs to the sword – an exceptional display against Manchester United, where he dominated Nemanja Vidic and Michael Carrick in the air comes to mind – but the uncertainty persists as to whether he’s capable of becoming a team player at a European team, rather than an outstanding individual at Everton, where the pressure, in addition to the need for professionalism and discipline, is limited in comparison.
Fellaini comes with an abundance of talent and further potential, but there is no doubt he is another Premier League problem child, that Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, David Moyes and Manuel Pellegrini would ideally not have to deal with amid a campaign which looks set to be the most unpredictable yet in England.
But we have a good two months before the transfer window slams shut, and with the Toffees already setting their price, it remains unlikely the midfielder will comfortably accept another year at Goodison Park. England’s Champions League clubs have by no means ruled out a bid for Fellaini, and one of the four will undoubtedly take the bait at some point over the summer, but they will seek to explore every possible alternative first.
Is Marouane Fellaini too much of a risk for the Premier League’s top four?
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