The summer silly season is upon us, and predictably the whispers have already begun speculating which of Everton's best players could be on their way out the door. While there has not yet been any concrete info suggesting a move is imminent, there has been talk that Marouane Fellaini and Tim Cahill could be candidates for a summer transfer.
The origin of the Fellaini speculation can be traced back to some comments from teammate Phil Jagielka, whose England side played Fellaini's Belgium in a pre-Euros friendly last Saturday. Cahill, meanwhile, has been linked with Al Nassr, a team with deep pockets from Saudi Arabia. Are these rumors realistic, and could Everton survive the potential departure of either player?
Unfortunately, with the way the club is, if somebody comes in with a £20m-plus offer, the chances are he’s going to be sold. We love Felli and we’d love him to stay. There’s not been that much transfer talk but we know the situation we’re in. We bought him for £16 million and I don’t think the club would take a loss. He’s developed in that time, especially in the last few games of the season, just behind the front one, and he’s destroyed teams.
Those were the words of Everton defender Phil Jagielka, and I have to say that I'm not exactly sure why he felt the need to speak up on the subject. That's not to say that every word he said isn't true, and of course we don't know the exact context of the quote. However, ultimately the only thing that can come from comments like this is controversy, and unneeded controversy at that.
Marouane Fellaini is coming off possibly his best season yet at Everton, and prior to Jagielka's statement there had been very little speculation that the Belgian would be on the move anytime soon. I have to question what purpose his comments serve, and perhaps he will think a bit more before he speaks out next time. But whatever, what's said is said. Now that an Everton player has broached the subject, one wonders how much validity there is to the possibility of Fellaini leaving.
As Jagielka notes, for Fellaini to leave it would take a significant bid, and you have to think that Everton would want a return on their investment and wouldn't settle for any less than the £20 million Jagielka mentions. But are there any clubs out there actually willing to pay that price? Perhaps (Chelsea has been rumored), but I think it would actually cost much more than that for Everton to be motivated to move their prize midfielder this summer. Remember, Fellaini just signed a new five-year contract less than a year ago, and the club is trying to maintain some sort of goodwill with the fans. It should also be noted that the contract apparently has a £24 million release clause included. Offloading Fellaini for anything less than a ridiculous amount (let's say maybe £28-30 million) would be PR suicide, so ultimately I don't think the scenario Jagielka describes is likely... in this transfer window, anyway.
Tim Cahill leaving is more plausible. Without a doubt he is an Everton legend, but there are several things working against him. Age is of course a factor, as well as the fact that it has become increasingly apparent that he is no longer an automatic starter. Personally, I would love to have Cahill on the team next year, but not if he is going to start 30+ games. At this point in his career, I feel that he is better served as an occasional starter and frequent substitute, a guy who can fill in when called upon and nick a goal if thrown on late in games.
On the other hand, I'm sure that Cahill is unsatisfied with last year's total of three goals, so he should be extra-motivated to have a comeback campaign. A revival to something near his old form wouldn't surprise me, though the possibility also exists that he has simply started on a irreversible decline. Cahill has briefly discussed the matter, and while he seems open to the idea of playing in the Middle East I still have a hard time believing it would actually happen. Al Nassr is reportedly preparing to offer Cahill £2.5 million for a one-year deal, but to me that doesn't seem like enough to lure him out of England. If the salary was increased though, all bets are off.
In an ironic twist, it is Fellaini who has been mentioned as a candidate to fill the "Cahill position" should Tim leave the club, playing just behind the lone striker. If the team does end up selling Cahill this summer, I think this could happen, though I question whether Fellaini is best utilized in this position. In any case, I think Everton fans can count on Fellaini staying for at least another season and likely beyond. However, if Cahill gets an attractive opportunity financially and competitively (be it in Saudi Arabia or another point on the globe), I could see our beloved Tiny Tim saying goodbye to Goodison sooner rather than later.