Providing you aren’t a supporter of one of the Premier League’s more illustrious, well-off outfits, the final knockings of the transfer window are usually an agonizing, anxious period. Sure, it’s built up to be a day of excitement. A day where teams can beat the clock to secure that dramatic, big money deal. But in reality, the majority of clubs outside that distinguished bracket will be content staving off late moves for any of their top players.
Everton are a club who are all too familiar with this scenario, and this upcoming window looks to be no different. Manchester United are striving to complete deals for Leighton Baines and Marouane Fellaini before the window closes, and the general consensus seems to be that a new £40million bid will be enough to see Everton bid their star duo farewell.
It is a saga that has dragged on over the course of the summer. Upon unveiling Roberto Martinez as the club’s new manager, chairman Bill Kenwright made it clear that Marouane Fellaini aside – a player who at the time had a release clause written into his contract – David Moyes would not be allowed cherrypick Everton’s top talent in his new role as Manchester United boss.
Those words did little to defer Moyes, and two joint bids have followed for Baines and Fellaini. So far, Everton have stood strong and turned them both away. But the absence of a strong declaration that neither player is for sale remains outstanding, and supporters are anxious that the club may yet cash in on their two prize assets, even at this very late stage.
For many Evertonians, the point of no return has long gone on this deal. The thought of negotiating with United is in itself enough to rile most Blues, with the seemingly patronizing, arrogant comments from Moyes and the “derisory and insulting” nature of the first bid still fresh in the memory. The overwhelming opinion remains that these were dirty tricks on United’s behalf that geared towards putting pressure on Everton and unsettling the duo.
Perhaps the Merseyside outfit could have given United a deadline before Monday night’s official cut-off to meet their asking price, giving Martinez plenty of time to bring in replacements if a transfer was agreed. But at this juncture, a mere three days before the window shuts, many Evertonians would happily see the club point-blank refuse to sell the players. The coveted duo might be frustrated at not getting their move, but both Fellaini and Baines have conducted themselves admirably amid the speculation and there is nothing to suggest they would not continue to do so should they remain at Goodison.
The early stages of the season have merely emphasized that both remain key figures in this side, and a strong show of defiance against their former boss would be welcomed by the fans. It would resonate a clear message that the club are not going to be dictated to under this new regime, just as they were not dictated to under the previous one. Liverpool, Spurs and Manchester United have all been rewarded for obstinate approaches when others have tried to poach their key players, and perhaps Everton should take a leaf out of their book.
But in a recent interview with Andy Hunter in The Guardian, comments from their manager will have not filled Evertonians with confidence. Martinez distanced himself from the dealings, suggesting any ongoing negotiations are now between the chairman and Manchester United:
“I have told the chairman I don’t want to know anything that’s going on, I only want to know the final news if there is anything. I have had enough of ‘he said this, he said that’. This is a really sensitive situation because you’re talking of a chairman and previous manager [Moyes] who had a relationship over 11 years. A lot of things have been said in public and I don’t want to be part of that. I’m out of it.”
It’s sad that the staunch, stubborn attitude emanating from Martinez in his early days as manager has been replaced by one which rings of frustration and resignation. And it’s frustration that is completely understandable.
The ghost of Moyes was always set to hamper the Catalan in his early days as Everton manager, but selling the club’s two biggest assets to their former boss at this late stage would represent a catastrophic blow. Replacing two players of that standard is a process worthy of a whole summer of meticulous planning and thorough scouting. But Martinez would only have three days at most to splash the cash from any potential sales. Not to mention, he has the small matter of an away trip to Cardiff to prepare for too.
He will have made contingency plans no doubt, but within the chaos that is the final embers of the transfer window, absolutely anything can happen. Selling now would put Martinez under immense pressure so early in his Everton tenure.
It will be interesting to see the reaction of supporters should Everton choose to conduct some last minute sales. A lot of anger was directed toward the board back in 2011 when the club shipped out Mikel Arteta, Ayigbeni Yakubu and Jermaine Beckford on deadline day; bringing nobody of note in to replace them. If the same happens again, but with the club’s two best players, you can only foresee a similar, if not more severe reaction from sections of the Everton faithful. Especially when the club have preached all summer that there are no financial pressures within.
As Martinez said himself, it is a really delicate situation. How the club go about things over the coming days will have a considerable effect on the manager and team this season and possibly beyond. The Toffees could easily find themselves with a squad shorn of two key players and a fan-base rife with disillusionment. Eleven o’clock British time Monday night can’t come quick enough.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball