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Heitinga set to leave despite rejecting West Ham.

Everton prepare for life without Heitinga
Everton prepare for life without Heitinga
Ian Walton

Last week Dutch international John Heitinga rejected a move to West Ham United. However, with his contract up at the end of the season he looks set to leave the Toffees and Everton may look to cash in on the 30 year-old.

Before arriving on Merseyside, Heitinga won the Eredivisie twice with Ajax and was the holder of Dutch footballer of the year for 2008. He became an Everton player with a wealth of international and European experience, playing alongside the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart. Heitinga joined the Blues along with Sylvain Distin as replacements for Joleon Lescott who was granted the move he desired to Manchester City. The former Atletico Madrid player became a regular ‘handyman’ in his first season with his versatility, playing as a right-back, centre-half and defensive midfielder. Heitinga went on to represent Holland in the 2010 World Cup although he became the fifth member of a group who have been sent off in a World Cup Final.

It wasn’t long before Heitinga became a fans’ favourite with his effort and loyalty to supporters. In his third season at the Blues he was voted Everton’s player of the year by the fans. It was that season, 2011/12, where injuries to Phil Jagielka and Sylvain Distin meant that the defender was given a run at centre-half and performed admirably, guiding young Shane Duffy in his first appearances for the first team.

However the following season was a sign of things to come. The Dutchman didn’t perform as well and was often beaten by pacey forwards. More often than not Jagielka and Distin were the preferred centre-back pairing last season and that has proved to be the case this season. Heitinga’s opportunities have been even more reduced this season with Jagielka and Distin appearing in every game together up until the Southampton fixture were Everton’s skipper was unavailable with a hamstring injury. However it was Antolin Alcaraz who replaced Jagielka and Heitinga has since found himself in fifth of the pecking order when youngster John Stones replaced Sylvain Distin against Stoke City on New Year’s Day after he was ruled out with injury.

It was revealed that at the end of last season Heitinga rejected a contract offer from Everton. This being the case, it is clear that the Dutch international’s time with the Blues is limited and despite Everton and West Ham reaching an agreement for Heitinga, he rejected the Hammers’ offer. Since then interest and speculation has fuelled over Heitinga’s future with Norwich, Newcastle, Fulham and Aston Villa all being linked with the defender as well as a return to his native Netherlands. Wherever his future lies it can’t be denied that the 30 year-old has been an excellent servant to club and is in one of the elite group who truly played for the fans.