Arsenal are closing in on Everton’s prize asset after activating the midfielder’s release clause with a £22 million bid last week, with Arsene Wenger a long-term admirer
By Wayne Veysey
On the day that Everton unveiled Roberto Martinez as their new manager, club chairman Bill Kenwright admitted there was one player who was likely to never be named on one of the Spaniard’s team-sheets.
Marouane Fellaini signed a new contract in November 2011, but, as is commonplace with those players eyeing greater things, it contained the caveat that he could leave if a buyer activated his release clause, which is £22 million for top-four clubs and £24m for those that finish outside the Champions League places.
Kenwright admitted he had told Martinez that the Merseysiders were vulnerable to offers for the towering Belgian.
“[Martinez] talked about a couple of new signings and he talked about the squad and asked ‘Do they need to go?’,” said Kenwright of his discussions with the Spaniard. “I said ‘No, they absolutely do not have to go’ [although] there is one that has a get-out, which everyone knows.”
Arsenal have made the first move to capture the 25-year-old as they close in on what would be a club-record signing.
As revealed by Goal, the north Londoners flexed their new-found financial muscle by triggering Fellaini’s buy-out clause last week.
It is understood that the north Londoners are now waiting for Everton to release the Belgium international in order to begin negotiating personal terms.
The timing is said by insiders to be “awkward” as the end-of-season internationals for have now been completed and it is the holiday season for the majority of Europe-based players.
Moreover, Arsenal are in no rush to complete the signing, as many of their key staff, including the medical team, are now on holiday and will not return to the club until the end of June.
Yet there is a growing confidence in the upper echelons of Emirates Stadium that Fellaini will become one of two £20m-plus signings this summer.
There is the possibility that Arsenal’s bid could force a counter move from one of Fellaini’s other suitors. Chelsea’s interest in the midfielder is believed to have dwindled but new Manchester United manager David Moyes could yet sanction a bid for Everton’s prize asset that trumps Arsenal’s offer.
Nevertheless, assuming Arsenal offer Fellaini a package that is lucrative enough to tempt him to the capital and the player gives the move the green light, he should line up in red and white next season.
Arsene Wenger has long been an admirer of Fellaini’s almost unique combination of physical presence, versatility and technique.
Souces have told Goal that the Arsenal manager enquired about signing him in the summer of 2011 but was quoted £30m at the time by Everton, which was before the buy-out clause was inserted into his contract.
Arsenal were operating under more straitened financial circumstances at the time and, with Fellaini priced out of reach, Wenger bought his club colleague Mikel Arteta instead for a more modest £10m.
Now the Frenchman wants to pair the former allies together next season in what could be a mouthwatering Arsenal midfield, fusing the likes of Arteta, his fellow Spaniard Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski, Tomas Rosicky and Abou Diaby with a British core of Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Time will tell whether Wenger plans to play Fellaini in his favourite midfield anchorman role, or in the more advanced attacking midfield position in which he was predominantly deployed by Moyes at Goodison Park last season.
Some within the game believe Fellaini’s best position could be a ‘false nine’ role in which he is ostensibly the attack spearhead, dropping deep to hold up the ball and allow midfield runners to spin off behind him.
The one certainty is that the Belgian powerhouse would considerably strengthen Arsenal’s squad and send out a massive statement of intent ahead of the new season.
As a proven Premier League performer, with five years of experience in the English top flight since joining Everton from Standard Liege in 2008 for a club-record £15m fee, Fellaini would need little time to adjust.
He fits the bill perfectly for Arsenal and would make their team sheet or, indeed any other top club, far more formidable.