John Drayton of the Daily Mail reports that United have already made an opening bid of £12 million, which was rejected by Everton, while a further £15 million bid is ready to test the Toffees' resolve—but that the eventual deal could be worth up to £20 million in total with add-ons.
There are clearly enormous amounts of money at stake for a player admired by many and regarded as an important part of the future by at least two teams, but how much would a fair deal ultimately cost United?
Age, Contract, Quality
Baines is one of the top attacking full-backs in the Premier League, there can be little argument of that. In an offensive sense, he was the top chance-creator for defenders by far last season, and even including all players in the league, only David Silva managed to average more key passes per game than the Everton man.
His delivery from wide areas, be it set pieces, crosses from deep or when attacking the byline, are invariably dangerous and inviting for forwards to attack.
Quick one-touch passing exchanges, good link-up play in transition phases and a great stamina level all contribute to him being the archetypal attacker from the back. At international level, only Ashley Cole's continued presence at a top club prevents Baines from being an established regular. Even so, he has managed close to 20 caps so far.
In terms of future progression, it is not likely Baines will get any better than he is now.
Already 28 years of age, Baines would be moving to play and train under the same coaching set-up as he has been at Everton, so while Moyes and company will know how to get the best out of him, he's not suddenly going to find an extra gear in terms of tactical knowledge or technical ability.
Indeed, it could be argued that he only has two or three further seasons at his current overall level, before his physical attributes perhaps decline somewhat, and other areas of his game must compensate for that.
Baines has two years left on his Everton deal, so United are not in the strongest position to bargain down the price. Then again, this is arguably the last summer that the Merseyside club might be able to command a large fee for him, so United may be able to skim a couple of million pounds off his absolute maximum asking price.
The English Premium and Transfer Market Values
It is widely accepted that in buying an English player from another Premier League side, the purchasing club can expect to pay over the odds. Whether because of the home-grown rule, the idealistic thought of raising a team littered with local talent or simply because of the paucity of quality English players, there is no doubt that few Englishmen transfer for their true worth.
Gael Clichy moved from Arsenal to Manchester City for £7 million in 2011, while Arsenal paid close to £9 million for Nacho Monreal just this January. Both these players have featured in a similar number of international games for their respective nations, both arguably better than England, but would there be any possibility of Baines joining United for a similar fee?
Not in the slightest.
There was never any chance that this deal would happen for anything less than the £12 million which has already been reportedly rejected, and at least a significant part of that is down to Baines' nationality.
Supply and Demand
United want Baines, and Moyes clearly has an affinity with him. Similarly, he may relish the chance to spend more in a single deal, his first real transfer in fact, than he did at any point at Everton, if the transfer does reach the £20 million-mark.
Everton have the player, he's under contract and has not made any public demands about wanting to leave, so his current team will feel they are very much in charge of the situation.
If they reject further United bids, they retain one of the league's best left-backs, and have an attack-minded new manager who could yet utilise him to even better effect.
If, on the other hand, the club deem a large offer to be worthwhile accepting, then Roberto Martinez will have significant funds to re-shape the first team in his own image.
There do not appear to be any further interested parties; this is a straight battle between United and Everton. The choice and words of Baines himself might yet play a pivotal role, but even if he desires to leave, Everton will likely hold out for as large a fee as they can get—and if it is not forthcoming, will request that he stays another season.
Whether that is sensible—getting one further year of quality out of a player in return for what is likely to be around a 50 percent drop in his market value—is another question.
Given Baines' achievements on the playing field, his statistical indicators and his relatively consistent form over the past few seasons, there is little risk in United paying a double-figures of millions fee. They know exactly what they'll get, and, barring injury, Baines will provide them with perhaps three seasons of exemplary performances.
How high they are prepared to go depends on three things: Firstly whether this is a "present" to David Moyes. It is obviously the manager's choice to go after Baines, but United will certainly have other left-backs on their club scouting records who would be similarly talented and available. Is there more worth in targeting these players who the manager might not be familiar with?
Secondly, is first-choice left-back Patrice Evra on his way out? If not, United hardly have need to spend huge sums with Evra, Fabio and Alexander Buttner all in the squad list.
Finally, are there other areas of the team which need attention? If not, then allocating money to the single position which needs strengthening is feasible, because it can make the difference between having the strongest starting XI or not.
If there are, and a finite amount of transfer money is available, then United will statistically allocate the maximum expenditure possible to the left-back position—and from there, will go no higher.
The expected second offer is close to the highest fair rate that United should be looking at. Perhaps a total package of £16 million, split however the two clubs can agree on, would be "fair" for both sides; Everton get close to their hoped-for £20 million for one of their star men, while United would view an expenditure of slightly more than £5 million per season a reasonable one, if they get three years of quality and consistent performances from Baines.
In truth of course he should cost no more than perhaps £11 million, perhaps a little higher, but the English Premium price is certainly applied in this case.
£16 million and a done deal, and both sides will likely be happy.
Player data from WhoScored.com and TransferMarkt.co.uk
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