EPL: Can Everton Keep Baines, Fellaini Long-Term?
With the January transfer window slowly taking over the Premier League news cycle, covetous eyes will begin to turn towards Goodison Park and the two best players in the possession of the Everton Football Club: midfielder Marouane Fellaini and left-back Leighton Baines.
Baines and Fellaini began their Everton careers a year apart, in 2007 and 2008 respectively, and if you believe what you read in the papers (you probably shouldn't) they could both be heading for the Goodison exit in a similar time frame.
Come the end of January, will Everton be trying to plug two gaping holes in their starting 11?
And if not in winter window, will Baines and Fellaini fly the nest in summer, leaving Everton without their two standout players?
Let's be honest, we don't really know but boy can we speculate!
Everton stands a better chance of keeping hold of England international Baines than Belgian international Fellaini, which ever way you look at it.
Having been reunited with left-side partner Steven Pienaar, Baines has enjoyed some glorious form in the Premier League in recent seasons.
His work has clearly stepped up again this season as Baines has consistently ranked as one of the most dangerous and creative players in the Premier League, creating 50 goal-scoring chances before any other player in Europe's Big 5 leagues and holding a top five ranking in key-passes per game.
Some may not be big believers in footballs advanced metrics, but Baines certainly passes the eye test too.
He is always busy, always wanting the ball, linking-up phenomenally well with the aforementioned Pienaar, delivers an exquisite final ball, and is just as competent going forward as he is defensively.
Debate rages concerning Baines' ranking as a left-back in the Premier League, and indeed the world, but who cares as long as he is still marauding down the left flank in a royal blue jersey?
Will Everton lose Baines/Fellaini?
Why would a player of such brilliance stay rooted with a club that cannot guarantee European football each season?
Simply put, it is home.
While Baines started his career on the other side of Stanley Park with Liverpool before moving further afield (all of 30 miles) to Wigan Athletic, since his arrival at Goodison, it is difficult to even picture Baines in anything other than an Everton jersey.
Born and raised just outside of Liverpool in Kirkby, Baines is a self-confessed "mummy's boy," enjoying home comforts a little too much for then England manager Fabio Capello who omitted the left-back from his World Cup 2010 squad after reports that homesickness would hit him in South Africa.
"Everyone wants to be a part of England, to come away and play, but I have always found it really hard, even when I was a teenager, being away from home," said Baines at the time, words somewhat twisted by the press but the sentiment of home is where the heart is rings true.
Baines would presumably stay local, which means if Manchester United don't make a cracking offer for the left-back his long-term future is with the Toffees.
Fellaini is another point entirely.
Baines has the feeling of a one-team man that happened to start his career at another club, whereas Fellaini has always had the touch of the mercenary.
With the news of the Belgians buyout clause leaking this week, it becomes clear that without this stipulation, the brilliant big-haired midfielder would have walked away from Goodison Park when his contract expired in 2011.
The buyout clause could be the drip of blood that those Champions League sharks need to pique their interest as the Belgian has been in career-best form all season.
Earlier in the year, Fellaini reportedly told a newspaper in his home country that he wanted to leave the Blues—claims which he was quick to rebuff.
“I don’t know the future but Everton gave me the chance to play in the Premier League. They gave me a lot of confidence. I am happy here,” said Fellaini of the speculation linking him to an host of other Premier League clubs.
The buyout clause in Fellaini's contract, if triggered, would circumvent Moyes and his managerial influence so if Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea et al. can pluck up the courage and the £20 plus million, the Belgian will be theirs.
While it does seem more likely that both remain through to the end of this season, it seems that Evertonians are only really worried about losing their virtuoso midfielder, not their marauding left-back.
Well, now that has been well and truly jinxed, cue the Everton exodus.
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