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

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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?

Karma.

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.

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez injured on international duty

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Atlanta United is sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings three weeks into its inaugural Major League Soccer season, and the bite appears to be every bit as fearsome as the bark for the newcomers.

Now, the club must contend with its first bit of truly scary news.

In-form striker Josef Martinez was injured on international duty with Venezuela and is heading back to the United States for evaluation. The report says he tweaked his left thigh, and after the match head coach Rafael Dudamel said he would release Martinez back to Atlanta, saying, “I do not think it’s good for Josef to travel. This muscle tightness can take 10 days of recovery.”

Martinez was subbed off of Venezuela’s match with Peru in the 59th minute, replaced by Yangel Herrera and walking off under his own power. Venezuela drew the match 2-2, blowing a 2-goal halftime lead and leaving them bottom of the table, 14 points back of the intercontinental playoff spot.

Obviously that 10-day recovery is more ideal than any other long-term prognosis, but it would still see him miss a road visit to Seattle next Friday. The 23-year-old has a whopping five games in his first three MLS games with Atlanta and has been a force. Brandon Vazquez and Bryan Rochez are the two options currently on Atlanta’s roster to replace the Venezuelan in the lineup.

Martinez was signed on loan from Serie A side Torino, but the move was made permanent last week.

Kevin de Bruyne questionable for injury-laden Belgium

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Belgium, already without superstar Eden Hazard for the upcoming World Cup qualifier against Greece, will now be without playmaker Kevin De Bruyne, who picked up an injury in training on Friday and will miss both the match against Greece and the subsequent friendly against Russia three days later…maybe.

The Belgian National Team official Twitter account sent out a quote from manager Roberto Martinez that confirmed De Bruyne would miss the pair of matches, but the tweet was quickly deleted.

Instead, this one was pushed out in its place, correcting his availability and also updating the type of injury:

Should De Bruyne miss out, it means Belgium would likely rely heavily on Dries Mertens and Kevin Mirallas for the playmaking duties, with midfielder Radja Nainggolan potentially taking on a more attacking role as well.

Belgium and Martinez also confirmed that right-back Thomas Meunier will miss out after failing to recover from an ankle injury, while Marouane Fellaini‘s status is unknown after he was held out of Thursday’s training session.

The injury also leaves De Bruyne’s status for Manchester City up in the air, with a pair of massive games in London in quick succession after the injury break. City visits Arsenal next Sunday, followed by a hop over to Stanford Bridge on Wednesday.

Landon Donovan retires again, this time for good

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After coming out of retirement last fall to join the LA Galaxy for one more shot at an MLS Cup, Landon Donovan has once again called time on his career, saying he’s certain he will not play again.

With a number of other ventures on his plate, the USMNT all-time leading scorer is looking forward to spending his time elsewhere.

“Yeah, I’m done,” Donovan said. “I’m done. No more playing for me. I have not [gone public with it yet]. But that is definitely the case.”

Donovan scored one goal in nine games for the LA Galaxy in his comeback bid, with the club ravaged by injuries and still gunning for the Cup. However, after the season was over with a loss to Colorado in the Conference Semifinals, the Galaxy confirmed it was nothing more than a short-term stopgap.

“With Landon, when he came back, it was always going to be a short-term thing,”team president Chris Klein said to the L.A. Times in December. “He’s enjoying what he’s doing and we see we’re comfortable in the direction that we’re headed.”

In January, reports claimed Real Salt Lake had offered Donovan a Designated Player contract, but it appears he’s turned it down, and will now have time to concentrate on his other ventures. Off the field, Donovan is an analyst on Fox’s soccer coverage, is on the advisory committee for the Los Angeles 2024 Olympics bid, and has joined the ownership group attempting to bring an expansion MLS team to San Diego.

Former Spurs midfielder Paulinho scores thunderbolt for Brazil

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Brazil topped Uruguay 4-1 to move on the verge of World Cup qualification, but there was much more to the first half of this match than meets the eye.

Uruguay went ahead 1-0 on a 9th-minute penalty won and scored by Edinson Cavani, and for a moment it seemed like the home side might find its way to pull within a point of Brazil at the top of the CONMEBOL standings. That would not last very long.

[ MORE: Full roundup of CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying action ]

Just 10 minutes later, a bad giveaway near the midfield stripe saw Neymar casually feed Paulinho a good 50 yards from goal. The former Spurs man took matters into his own hands, charging forward and unleashing a vicious strike that continued to rise until it ripped the chords in the top-right corner.

 

Not only was the goal a sight to behold, it was an important moment in the match. Brazil was back level at 1-1, and Paulinho would be on his way to an eventual hat-trick with a pair in the second half. Neymar scored once as well to complete the 4-1 final scoreline, and the three points for Brazil saw them remain perfect in the World Cup qualifying round as they march seven clear of Uruguay at the top of the standings.

For Paulinho, the hat-trick brings him to four goals in the World Cup qualifying round, adding to his score in the 3-0 win over Argentina. They also mark an important moment for the Chinese Super League, where Paulinho now plays, having moved from Spurs in July of 2015. Some national team coaches have left players on the outside of the squad for moving to leagues such as the Chinese League or Major League Soccer, but Paulinho has clearly been an asset to Brazil despite his club situation. In fact, in China, Paulinho has scored four goals in his four league matches for Guangzhou Evergrande this season plus another in the Asian Champions League, leaving him in top goalscoring form coming into this international break, something which has clearly translated directly to international play.

The 28-year-old had lost his place in the national team squad in 2014, going over two years without a single international appearance, but has been a mainstay in the Brazilian side during this World Cup qualification cycle.