Today’s Liverpool match could be the final Merseyside derby for three key characters at Everton Football Club: Marouane Fellaini, Leighton Baines and David Moyes.
Since joining Everton from Standard Liège as a 20 year old, Fellaini has gone from long limbs and lots of potential to a world-class, multi-tooled player. Now at the age of 25, he is in the form of his life and enjoying his best Premier League season ever. Whether deployed as a striker or a holding midfielder, Fellaini is always afforded the freedom to roam causing major headaches for opposition.
This will likely be Fellaini’s final Merseyside derby as this summer will see numerous clubs hustling to trigger his £23m release clause. Originally the Belgian was widely believed to be heading to Chelsea but reports of the Blues’ interest in Shakhtar Donetsk’s Fernandinho suggest their desire to bring in Fellaini could be waning.
Anzhi Makhachkala have also expressed huge interest in Fellaini, who could be influenced by the Russian side’s deep pockets and that they currently employ country-mate Axel Witsel. One way or another, Everton fans have come to grips with the fact that their best player will soon be leaving the club. A big derby day would be a phenomenal way to go out.
Leighton Baines is another player whose stock has continued to rise this season. For the last few summers Goodison Park has been rocked by rumors that Manchester United is contemplating a bid on the left-back. Many feel that move is likely to materialize this summer and could be in the region of £15m.
It’s a sale that most Evertonians are staunchly against. Whereas Fellaini always has been bound for a bigger club, Baines’ work rate, spirit and modesty are qualities that are quintessential Everton. But with the club’s notorious financial constraints, it wouldn’t surprise if chairman Bill Kenwright pulled the trigger on a deal for Baines.
For David Moyes, the Merseyside derby could play a crucial part in determining whether he decides to remain at the club. The manager’s contract is set to expire this summer and one of his major sticking points for re-signing with Everton is whether the club can qualify for European football. With Tottenham’s 1-0 victory over Southampton yesterday, achieving that feat is a long-shot as the Toffees head into Sunday’s match six points adrift of Spurs for 5th place.
The other major sticking points for Moyes’ decision concern personnel and transfer money. If Kenwright ends up selling players – namely, Fellaini and Baines – Moyes could be dissuaded from believing there is much of a future at Goodison Park. The Scot will feel equally undone if Kenwright fails to provide a sizeable transfer kitty from which to bring new talent into the squad.
It all comes to a head in today’s derby at Anfield where the Toffees have not won in 14 years.