Inside Story on Marouane Fellaini's Manchester United Transfer Rumours
It is amazing how life can change for a footballer over the course of a year. Certainly it is true in the case of Marouane Fellaini.
Considered as little more than a joke figure at Manchester United 12 months ago, a late penalty conceded against Everton seemed to cement his role as the club clown in December 2016. Sections of United fans jeered him. Swathes of Reds followers on social media berated him.
Yet he has become one of Jose Mourinho's most trusted lieutenants since then, winning over large numbers of doubters. He is now one of the few figures the manager can regularly rely on, and Fellaini usually creates problems on the pitch for the right reasons.
But just as he emerges as a United cult hero, the Belgian midfield player is faced with uncertainty over how much longer he will remain at Old Trafford.
But clubs have also been looking closely at the possibility of landing him for free at the end of the season.
I have looked into the situation to discover whether Fellaini's time in Manchester really could soon be over.
The Current Situation
Fellaini proved his worth when Paul Pogba picked up a hamstring injury against Basel in September.
While he may not have the same skill set as the France international, Fellaini slotted into United's midfield to act as a destroyer and an attacking threat.
It was only when Fellaini picked up an injury of his own while on international duty at the beginning of October that it became clear just how important he is.
United won all of the Belgian's league starts against Everton, Southampton and Crystal Palace without conceding a goal. In the three games that followed with Fellaini sidelined with a knee problem, United failed to pick up a win.
He was back in action as a substitute for the 1-0 loss to Chelsea and looked like their most likely source of an equaliser in the dying stages of the game.
Doubts over his future stem from the fact his contract expires at the end of this season, and from January, he will be able to sign a pre-contract with another club.
At this stage there is no agreement with United over a new deal, which seems strange given Mourinho clearly values him.
The only way that makes sense is from a business point of view. Perhaps Ed Woodward is trying to show the Glazer family a sense of value by cashing in on a player whose deal is running down.
But from Mourinho's perspective, that would surely cause more tension and reason for him to be frustrated. At a time when he wants the club's backing in a host of areas and is already being serenaded by Paris Saint-Germain, upsetting the Portuguese by flogging Fellaini may not be advisable.
Where's the Interest?
Three Turkish clubs have been pursuing a deal for Fellaini in recent months.
All three clubs' interest is serious, but Besiktas believe they are closest to a deal, and they would probably be most enticing to the player.
They have considered him most likely to exit United when his contract expires at the end of the season and are willing to offer up to a four-year deal on an increased salary from his current contract at United.
Galatasaray made a strong move for Fellaini in the summer market. Discussions were held with Manchester United officials, who told them he wasn't for sale. They did agree to remain in contact, however, in case the situation changed.
On the surface, his value to the team seems more obvious now than it did in July.
What Would It Take to Sign Him?
Sources in Turkey suggest Fellaini would land a significant signing fee if he moves to any of the three clubs as well as a wage increase on his current deal, which is believed to be around £80,000 per week.
Right now it seems unclear how highly United rate him and what they would pay him to stay, as there has been little public indication of their intentions.
Fellaini's representatives are understood to have been in regular contact with Turkish clubs to sound out possible moves for their client in case he does move on in 2018.
But it would not be unusual for talks with other teams to trigger the current club into making an improved offer of their own.
One of Mourinho's biggest grievances at United has been how long it takes to make things happen. Whether that is a small change at the club's Carrington training base or a significant addition to his squad, the process is usually drawn out.
On that basis, it is difficult to see him agreeing to the sale of Fellaini in January unless he has a significant addition lined up.
To sell Fellaini and then bring in Fred—a player with no Premier League experience—would be a huge risk. It just doesn't fit the Mourinho model right now.
But what if he is heading towards a deal to sign a top-tier player like Mesut Ozil, as has been heavily hinted? It would begin to make more sense.
If the boss does agree to let Fellaini leave, then either a top-level replacement is already lined up or Mourinho is giving up on his United project.
He is halfway through his three-year contract, but with the constant talk about him being the man Paris Saint-Germain will want if they decide to replace Umai Emery, Fellaini's sale could symobolise that he does not intend to hang around too much longer.
If he is allowed to exit, let's brace ourselves for the arrival of a new big-name midfield signing...or Mourinho's long goodbye.