Marouane Fellaini's excellent form this season was destined to make him a prominent figure in the transfer talk round-ups and the Everton midfielder himself has not resisted escalating a potential departure from Goodison Park.
The Belgian, who has scored six goals and created another three for the Toffees this campaign, has again gone on record to state his desire to leave the club.
"I've seen everything with Everton and in January or at end of the season, I will turn to a new club or new league," he apparently told journalists ahead of Belgium's international friendly in Romania on Wednesday.
It's not the first time Fellaini has spoken candidly about his future. In September he said something almost verbatim, also to the Belgian media during an international break. Some joked his profligacy at West Brom - played the day after the summer transfer window shut - was because he had not been sold.
Despite that, he has expressed his desire "to win something here, with Everton" and previously said in reference to his September quotes how "surprised" he was to see it had been reported he would leave Merseyside.
Fellaini has scored four times since the West Brom defeat, with three coming in his last four games. He is thriving more so now because he has not been deployed as the battering ram he was primarily utilised as by David Moyes in his first four seasons at the club. The equaliser he netted and assist he provided for Nikica Jelavić against Sunderland on Saturday came after he was moved to his favoured midfield berth.
Fellaini celebrates his equaliser against Sunderland
Midfield is a blind-spot for Sir Alex Ferguson, whose lightweight Manchester United would be improved by the hulking 6ft 4ins 24-year-old. Fellaini has scored twice against the Reds - he nodded in the winner in the teams' first game of the current campaign - and the list of players signed by Ferguson who impressed against United is lengthy. Eric Cantona, Jesper Blomqvist, Dwight Yorke, Cristiano Ronaldo, Louis Saha, Carlos Tévez and, most recently, Robin van Persie, are the stand out examples.
Due to his height and frame, Fellaini is only now receiving belated plaudits for his technical proficiency rather than bulldozing opponents. His box-to-box prowess is all-too-rarely seen, which makes him and United a perfect matrimony.
Chelsea are being bracketed with Fellaini as well now. John Obi Mikel's quality is still enshrouded with doubt over six years after he moved to west London while the marauding Ramires has emerged as another string to the Blues' attacking bow. Fellaini could offer a much-needed defensive shield but may be restricted from attacking due to the multitude of options available at Roberto di Matteo's disposal. With his national team, such are the embarrassment of riches at the Red Devils' disposal, he occasionally shares defensive duties with Mousa Dembélé.
Real Madrid have emerged as another possible destination, but out of the three would be the worst. Sami Khedira and Xabi Alonso occupy the two midfield berths and while unseating one of the two is far from an insurmountable task for Fellaini, his own combative style may conflict with Spanish football's patience.
Everton will however be determined to ensure his departure is not the fait accompli it appears to be. Fellaini signed a five-year deal a year ago this Friday and was bought from Standard Liège for £15m in 2008. United were priced out of a move for Leighton Baines and it is possible there could be a repeat scenario should they enquire about his team-mate. Everton are entitled to want double what they paid for Fellaini, who is also an early contender for the player of the year awards.
Sitting prettily in fourth, Moyes may not tolerate the phrase "Champions League football" being uttered around Finch Farm but Everton do have the squad capable of challenging for such a prestigious prize. They have only lost once in the league so far, and providing Fellaini with a platform for tangible success could offer a stay of execution.
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