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Marouane Fellaini’s potential transfer to United and how Everton can soften the blow


During the next press conference that David Moyes holds I’d love for the following question to be asked:

‘If the Glazer family offers to trigger Marouane Fellaini’s £23 million release clause, will you make him a Manchester United player?’

I’ve got to assume his answer would be ‘yes,’ primarily because £23 million is great value for a 25 year old, freakishly athletic, multi-tooled player who, whether deployed as a holding midfielder or a striker, is a nightmare for the opposition.

More: Marouane Fellaini’s £23 million release clause is a joke

Sir Alex Ferguson isn’t likely to disagree as the Belgian single-handedly tore apart Manchester United when the two clubs met last August, scoring the 57th minute game-winner. And the fact is, United need a player like Fellaini. While Michael Carrick has been brilliant this season, Tom Cleverley, Paul Scholes and Anderson have all underwhelmed. Fellaini’s presence next to Carrick would reduce the Englishman’s defensive load and free him up to do what he does best – provide pinpoint passes to generate the attack.

But what about Phil Jones, you ask?

The 21 year old has quality written all over him. But for me, it’s center-back quality. While he could deputize for Carrick and Fellaini in the pivot, the former Blackburn man needs to be groomed as the future leader of United’s back four. It’s a bit crowded back there at the moment, but Jones would blossom if inserted into a rotation alongside Johnny Evans, the oft-injured Nemandja Vidic and the soon-to-be-retired Rio Ferdinand.

As someone who follows Everton extremely close, however, I must be honest: I’m still in the dark as to whether or not Moyes is a fan of Fellaini’s character.

For Evertonians, the following quote will feel a bit like a kiss from your sister but it wasn’t a fortnight ago that Moyes had this to say about the Belgian: “[Fellaini] is a big part of our squad, and he is someone that we will be more than happy to see here again next year at Goodison.”

It was a nice comment, but fairly stale in nature. When asked whether Fellaini was equally adept at defending as he is attacking, the Scot replied: “He is a good player in either role and is capable of doing both,” Moyes explained. “I think, as he matures, he might grow into a deeper role, but currently he does give us a different attacking option and has scored quite a few goals.”

Now, perhaps this is just me trying to read between the lines, but it doesn’t feel like Moyes has a ton of love for the Belgian.

Hopefully I’m wrong because what a great story it would be for all parties involved if Fellaini went to Old Trafford: United would get a dominant player on the cheap, Fellaini would get to play in the Champions League, Moyes would be able to continue grooming the player who he spent the last 5 years turning into a man, and Everton . . . Well, what would Everton get out of this?


That sounds rather crappy, doesn’t it?

Well, it’s all Evertonians can hope for at this point. Allow me to elaborate.

In an ideal world Fellaini’s release clause would be £30-35 million but, because Everton failed to negotiate good value for their player, it’s not. So, we move on to the next best thing – hoping that Fellaini’s release clause is triggered by a club so far away that the Toffees never have to see that that luscious afro again. A place like, Makhachkala.

Ah, Russia. Perfect. Send the dude to Anzhi and be done with it.

The problem is, the chance of that happening is extremely slim. If anyone is triggering Fellaini’s release clause it’s going to be a club with expansive financial wherewithal and a heightened familiarity with Fellaini’s game. Meaning one of following three: United, Chelsea or Manchester City.

And it all comes down to who pulls the trigger quicker. The summer transfer window opens at midnight of the last day of the season – I suggest interested parties submit bids no later than 12:01 am.

But back to that karma thing.

Evertonians should favor Marouane Fellaini’s move to United because recent history has established a healthy pipeline between the two clubs. It began with the sale of Wayne Rooney to Old Trafford in 2004. Then in 2005, United sent Phil Neville to Goodison and in 2006, it was Tim Howard who made the switch. In 2008, United moved Louis Saha to Merseyside and in 2012 Darron Gibson changed kits.

That’s some strong pipe. And you better believe it grew much stronger yesterday when Moyes signed with United, which, notably, was at the end of his contract meaning United didn’t owe a dime in the form of a transfer fee.

So if the Everton board has an ounce of business savvy – and the jury is still out on that one – it will sit down and negotiate with United the intricacies of the Fellaini deal. Specifically, I suggest Everton calmly remind United of the sweet deal they’re getting and request (as a nice gesture to the pipeline) a right of first refusal on all of the Red Devils’ out-going transfers and loans for the next three years.

Of course, United would never owe such terms as there’s no additional consideration being tendered by Everton, but one would hope that good faith (in the name of the pipeline) would play a roll and United would at least consider it.

Again, not a huge victory for Everton but at least the Toffees get something out of the deal. Then, when guys like Nani and Anderson come up for sale or Alexander Buttner and Nick Powell are sent out on loan, Everton would have first dibs and the option of strengthening the club.

Bottom line, come the last day of the season, Marouane Fellaini is walking out that door.

Everton best do what they can to soften the blow.

Serie A: Napoli go top for first time in 25 years; Inter a close 2nd

Gonzalo Higuain, SSC Napoli
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A quick roundup of Monday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

Napoli 2-1 Inter Milan

For the first time since the final day of the 1989-90 season, Napoli are top of Serie A all by themselves after a top-of-the-table clash with previous leaders Inter Milan.

Gonzalo Higuain bagged both goals for the Azzurri, the first of which came after just 65 seconds. His tally on 62 minutes held up as the game-winner after Adem Ljajic pulled one back for Roberto Mancini’s side in the 67 minute. The opener (below video) was a powerful finish from inside the penalty area which served as a strong reminder as to why a club like Arsenal is consistently linked to the Argentine striker.

Sassuolo 1-1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina, who had a chance to stake their own claim to the top spot, dropped two points away to seventh-place Sassuolo earlier in the day, opening the door for Napoli to go top with their victory. After shooting out of the gates red hot (6 wins in their first 7 games), the Viola have now drawn back to back games — to Empoli and Sassuolo — and find themselves third, two points behind Napoli.

Borja Valero put Fiorentina ahead after five minutes on Monday, but Sassuolo equalized through Sergio Floccari just before halftime to keep their own dreams of European qualification alive.

Serie A table

Matchup by matchup: Picking a favorite for MLS Cup 2015

Portland Timbers FC
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We’re T-minus 137 hours to the kickoff of MLS Cup 2015, between Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

When the two sides meet at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday (4 p.m. ET), the general public will have picked a slight favorite to hoist MLS Cup, just like any other game. Only, this one’s a bit tougher to call — there’s no clear-cut favorite as is usually the case in MLS Cup, so we’ll do our best to explore a few key matchups that might slant Sunday’s title tilt in one direction or the other…

Crew SC width (Waylon Francis, Harrison Afful, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay) vs. Timbers width (Jorge Villafana, Alvas Powell, Rodney Wallace, Dairon Asprilla)

  • Pinning the wingers back — There’s two ways to beat Crew SC: 1) sit with eight or nine men behind the ball and frustrate them through a lack of space to attack; or, 2) pin Finlay and Meram deep inside their own half, defensively, by getting your full backs forward and forcing them to defend. It’s doable, but it’s not easy. On the other side, best of luck to Wallace and Asprilla with the tracking back they’ll be forced into with perhaps the best attacking right back in MLS, Afful, and Francis overlapping on either side. Fanendo Adi could find himself on an island very quickly if the Crew SC full backs get forward as often as they’d like.
  • Where the help comes from — That’s the biggest issue for Portland, who ever since dropping Darlington Nagbe into midfield, play with a lone defensive midfielder, Diego Chara. He’s great at covering the entire field and providing help to blow up an opposing attack, but he can only be on one side of the field at a time. This means Borchers and Ridgewell will be stretched wider and forced to defend Finlay and Meram in space, where they’re oh so deadly.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Crew SC announce MLS Cup sold out 15 hours after qualifying ]

Kei Kamara vs. Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell

  • All it takes is one chance — Neither one of Borchers or Ridgewell can physically compete with Kamara’s rare combination of speed and athleticism — to be fair, few center backs this side of the world can. Therefore, 90 percent of “defending” Kamara will be staying tight to the 22-goalscorer during the regular season and, with any luck, not losing track of him once the ball gets out to the wings. Once Kamara gets that yard of space in any direction and the ball goes up on the cross, the center backs’ chances of winning the next ball are much, much lower. That said, Kamara will find far less space against Borchers and Ridgewell (and Diego Chara) than he enjoyed against Montreal and New York thus far in the playoffs. There’s very few center back duos with the experience and nous of the Timbers’ backbone.
  • Advantage: Timbers

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Timbers midfield three (Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri) vs. Crew SC midfield three (Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain)

  • Nagbe the key to balance — Darlington Nagbe will, one day, be an MLS Best XI central midfielder. Today is not that day, though. He’s still a work in progress, and probably the most exploitable individual on the field in Crew SC’s eyes. Tchani and Trapp are, in my opinion, the best deep-sitting midfield duo in the league, and they’ll press, harry and harass Nagbe for 90 (0r 120) minutes, probably starting a fair few of those deadly counter-attacks in the middle third of the field.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

Gregg Berhalter vs. Caleb Porter

  • Lineups set themselves — Neither coach is likely to throw out a huge surprise before kickoff — dance with one that brought you, or something like that. Up until recently, I was completely convinced that Porter was vastly overrated and didn’t understand the constant adoration that surrounded the man his first two or three years in charge. Everything was a bit stale and rigid, organized, but lacking flair. Then he moved Nagbe into midfield to allow his biggest game-changer more opportunities on the ball to affect the game much more. This leads me to believe Porter is a bit more flexible in seeing his team and system operate in slightly different ways, but only barely.
  • Advantage: Timbers

Crew SC announce MLS Cup 2015 sold out 15 hours after qualifying

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC
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The building formerly known as Crew Stadium has hosted its fair share of famous soccer games since it opened in 1999 — dos a cero, anyone? — and Sunday’s MLS Cup 2015 looks set to rank right up there among them.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Roughly 15 hours after advancing to this year’s MLS Cup, which they will host this Sunday (4 p.m. ET), Columbus Crew SC announced on Monday that MAPFRE Stadium is officially sold out.

Crew SC president of business operations Andy Loughnane addressed the fanbase in a blog post on the club’s official site Monday afternoon and said, “As of late this morning we are sold out of the extra capacity seating that was created for MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. While there is a small chance that additional seats could be released for purchase as a result of MLS holds being returned, we are sold out of all known available seats.”

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Crew SC, making their second MLS Cup appearance in club history (2008 champions), will host first-time MLS Cup contestants, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday.

PL clubs combined to pay out $200 million in agent fees in 2015

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke
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What a time to be an agent in the footballing world, eh? The rich just keep getting richer and richer and richer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The steady increase in transfer fees being paid for players — bad, good, great and amazing alike — has made quite a few “selling” clubs rich reach over the last decade or two, to be sure, but it’s also made another group of people obscenely rich: player agents.

As the soccer world has gone crazy with its “now, now, now” approach — managers must win now, or they’re fired; new signings must become stars now, or they’ll be sold; etc. — agents are the ones making out like bandits — no losses to be sustained on players who turn out to be flops; no future loss of wages due to taking “too long” to settle in and being labeled a flop — at the expense of clubs and, most cruelly, the players.

More than $195 million was paid out agents by Premier League clubs across the January and summer transfer windows, with Liverpool — ever the club in constant change — paying out $21.5 million in agents fees to remain top of the table for a second straight year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were the four other clubs to top $15 million.

[ MORE: Premier League Payback — The Diego Costa era over at Chelsea? ]

Agents not only receive a fee when players change clubs through transfers, but can only be compensated again and again when one of their clients signs a new contract with their current club.

For instance, Wayne Rooney has signed at least four new contracts since joining Manchester United in 2004, the latest of which came barely three years after he was given a new five-year deal in Oct. 2010 upon handing in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move to Manchester City. Rooney’s current weekly wage is reported to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. His agent, Paul Stretford, will have received a sizable payday upon negotiating the deal in Feb. 2014.

At the end of the day, sports are little more than a business, and it’s the ones who play the game — the political game, that is — the best, and most ruthlessly, who are making out like bandits.