An encouraging start to the season under their new manager was promptly shifted to the back of Evertonian minds on Monday morning. That was following the news that the Toffees had turned down a £28 million bid from Manchester United for Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines a mere day before the start of the Premier League campaign.
Everton subsequently released a statement confirming the offer was ‘rejected out of hand’, before going on to describe the bid as ‘derisory and insulting’.
The words ‘not for sale’ may have been omitted, but the Toffees have made it clear on numerous occasions that they have absolutely no intention of selling either player. The release clause in Marouane Fellaini’s contract expired on July 31st, and Roberto Martinez has already indicated the club will not entertain any offers less than the £23million figure that would have triggered it.
Therefore, it is easy to see why the £28 million offer raised some eyebrows. The bid from United apparently valued Fellaini at £16 million – a figure less than the £17.5million Everton spent to bring the Belgian to Merseyside – and Baines at £12million – the same sum which was immediately rejected when United bid for the England left-back earlier this summer.
So is Fellaini worth £1.5million less than when Everton signed him five years ago? Is £12million enough for one of the game’s best left-backs and statistically, the most creative player in Europe last season? Not a chance.
It seems unlikely that this move was a genuine attempt at trying to sign the duo on the cheap. Manchester United manager David Moyes knows first hand how valuable the duo are to Everton and would have fully expected the Toffees to turn their nose up at the offer.
The bid reeks of a veiled attempt at turning the head of either player – who to their credit, have conducted themselves impeccably despite the ongoing speculation – in the hope they will try and force through a move. Is it perhaps, the last roll of the dice for a manager who is having a torrid first transfer window in his new job? Or is it a shrewd move which could conclude in a cut-price deal for two of the Premier League’s star performers?
Regardless, it is quite the hypocritical ploy by the former Everton boss and one that has angered those of blue allegiance on Merseyside. So much so, that the derogatory nature of the bid may have only strengthened the Toffees resolve to keep their coveted duo.
Not that the club’s resolve was in question, for over the years Everton have built up quite the reputation for wringing every penny out of the opposition when it comes to selling players. That is of course in the main, down to the work of Moyes, who was especially defiant when it came to transfer dealings at Goodison Park. During his tenure, talk of Everton players leaving was met with a steely glare and a proclamation that ‘Everton do not sell players cheap’. Any attempt to unsettle an Everton player would be viewed with considerable disdain.
This was never more evident than in the Joleon Lescott transfer saga. Moyes was beset with rage after what he felt was a blatant attempt by Manchester City to tempt Lescott away from the club; the Manchester outfit made two bids way below what Everton considered to be Lescott’s true market value. Ultimately, Lescott had his head turned, was sold and the squad dynamic was disrupted. Sound familiar?
Now, Moyes is adhering to those tactics which he was so critical of four years ago. Don’t get me wrong, Manchester United have every right to bid on Everton’s players, but put simply – and a lot more politely than many Evertonians have expressed today – pay the market value or turn your attentions elsewhere.
It’s dirty tricks on United’s behalf, and Everton must not buckle. They have no need to, for the Toffees are under no obligation to sell either player. Imagine Moyes’ reaction if he was the Everton boss and he received an offer of this type? Especially with the season underway and the transfer window’s conclusion so close.
Everton should be more than confident of keeping both players. Baines has stated on numerous occasions that he is happy at the club and is certainly not a character that will force through a move, whereas Fellaini – whilst probably the more likely of the two to push for a transfer – has three years left on a clause-less contract. The ball is well and truly in Everton’s court.
But what is most riling from a Toffees perspective is the contemptuous arrogance of this bid, regardless of any concealed intentions. Having missed out on their main targets in Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara, Manchester United seemingly feel as though they can waltz along and pick up Everton’s players on the cheap. Just to compound matters, it leaves an especially bitter taste when a former long-term manager is at the forefront of the pursuit.
By employing these tactics, Moyes is in danger of tarnishing a decade of good work at Everton. It was his own stubborn policies that have shaped Evertonian morals when it comes to transfers and this miserly approach will not sit well with those at the club who gave him unrelenting support to implement these ideologies.
Of course, Everton are no longer the concern of the Manchester United manager. But before leaving Everton, Moyes said he would always like to be able ‘to walk back through the front door’ on his Goodison Park return.
Will he be able to do so if he continues to pursue his former players in this manner? For a man who received a guard of honour, a standing ovation and the well wishes of everyone from Everton Football Club prior to his departure, perhaps it is time for him to reciprocate some of that good will.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball