COLUMNIST JOE JENNINGS
If tenuous reports surfacing in the media are to be believed, Manuel Fernandes’s love affair with Everton could be set to continue, that is, if he’s still on the menu at Goodison Park.
There have been various accusations levelled at Manuel Fernandes during his two spells with Everton, from backstabbing to lethargy to showboating. But one thing to me has always proved conclusive, scientific fact — the lad has talent, lots of it.
Fernandes remains, to this day, a rough diamond. A diamond who potentially, could become one of the best in the Premier League, given the right home. I honestly believed securing his services permanently last summer was a must, as he was exactly what we needed to move forward, and I felt we simply had to pay whatever it took to ensure his future was at Everton. For one reason or another, it didn’t happen. I was angered, but most of all, disappointed.
Disappointed that a player of such obvious ability and flair could slip through our net. Disappointed we couldn’t stump up the cash to secure his long term future was at Everton. Disappointed he would have to do make do with paella over scouse.
The now Valencia midfielder brought men of all ages, shapes and sizes out of the closet with some sexually arousing displays upon arrival at Liverpool 4. He was a breath of fresh air. A powerful, talented, dexterous international who brought an aura of class with him.
A goal against Manchester United back in April 2007 that encapsulated all the finesse, panache and absolute belief that was once quintessentially ‘Everton’ did much to spark the Evertonian excitement. It was understandable. As the season drew to a close, the focus was now aimed at getting Fernandes in on a permanent basis.
But that’s when it all started to go horribly wrong. Enthusiasm turned to despair as deadline day approached.
Supporters will now understandably refer to the protracted ‘transfer’ of that summer which involved Fernandes shaking hands on a deal with Everton and being Bill Kenwright’s guest for the clash against Blackburn Rovers, before inexplicably signing on the dotted line at the Mestalla a day after, as catastrophic. That hurt, it really did. It was like the winning lottery numbers that you forgot to put on, finding your best mate in bed with your wife, getting the ball full on at your sack, a heartbreaking feeling any dyed-in-the-wool Evertonian would have felt.
Even a return on loan a few months later didn’t satisfy all of the Goodison boo-boys, clearly still sore from being shafted from behind. His performances didn’t initially inspire either, questions surrounding his attitude were once again inevitably posed. But there was always the knowledge of what he was capable of, a belief in Fernandes’ truly unique capabilities. There was almost an unforeseen determination from a certain section of our fan base however, that we couldn’t or shouldn’t fall back in love with him, because he was a traitor after all. I found that attitude loathsome. For sure, he had let us down massively, but that was now of secondary importance, the main thing was ensuring he didn’t slip away for a second time.
Here we had a player who rivalled some of the Premier League’s top performers in terms of skill, guile, awareness, passing range and vision and some remained adamant he was a bad apple. We’re a funny band of supporters. This was the same lad who had Cesc Fabregas — one of the most coveted talents in world football — grasping at his ankles in stupor as our Portuguese maestro set Goodison alight.
Watching Fernandes and Arteta in full swing against Portsmouth on a day sunshine surrounded Goodison Park was a joy to behold. It was truly school of science stuff. Arteta was the one player in the Everton side who really did understand how Fernandes operated, they clicked.
Given Arteta’s reincarnation in central midfield and the form and emergence of young talents, where would Fernandes fit in if his dream was to come true? Perhaps more importantly, would David Moyes have the foresight to do it? Is he too much of a steady Eddy to take the risk? Personally, I’d have him back in a shot, because unlike others, he has world-class ability. Valencia are cash-strapped, by no means are Everton affluent, but it begs the question if we can afford to spend £15 million on Marouane Fellaini surely we can gather the reddies to secure one of the other stars of tomorrow.
Manuel Fernandes needs tender, love and care. He needs a home. Agents have already played a massive role in his career in engineering moves to clubs across Europe, but here we have a 23-year-old — excusing the hyperbole — prospective world-beater. Surely that alone should banish any doubts surrounding him?
A midfield trio of Rodwell, Arteta and Fernandes (hey, maybe even Fellaini!), isn’t that our idea of Blue heaven? The Holy Trinity would certainly think so.
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