The prospect of Everton losing Marouane Fellaini to one of his many suitors raised its head again this week when it was revealed the Belgian midfielder has a release clause in his contract at Goodison Park.
Although Everton declined to confirm or deny the existence of the clause, it was reported with confidence by many outlets, including the BBC.
While the news of Fellaini’s release clause may have disappointed some supporters who hoped the 25-year-old would remain at Everton for a while longer, from all sides the clause makes sense. It was necessary for Everton to agree to the clause to get Fellaini to sign a new contract in 2011. At that point Fellaini’s existing deal had only 18 months to run and preventing the contract entering its final year was vital.
The announcement that Fellaini had put pen to paper gave the club a much-needed boost, especially since Everton were in the midst of what was then their usual pre-January slump. Fellaini was starting to show the kind of form that has been common this season and the show of faith from the player in the club lifted the spirits of the fans, hinting that while results at the time were mixed, the future had the potential to be brighter.
How much longer Fellaini plays a part in that future remains to be seen, but when the time comes – and his departure is inevitable, sooner or later – the existence of the release clause will limit the painful, unsettling wrangling of the sort seen when Wayne Rooney and Joleon Lescott moved on for similar fees. When it comes to losing a player as important and popular as Fellaini the best you can hope is that it happens quickly.
The figure of somewhere over £22m, but likely someway short of £30m, may appear to undervalue the player but the clause should be viewed in the context in which it was agreed. If Fellaini had not signed a new deal in November 2011 then he would be out of contract at the end of this season, or, more likely, sold last summer for a fee that reflected his expiring contract – more than the £15m Everton paid in 2008, but not necessarily more than the £25m or so the clause seems to be set at.
Everton then have traded a few million pounds for at least another year of Fellaini’s services and, potentially, a place in the Champions League, the added income from which would be worth more than the difference between the release clause and whatever Fellaini’s true market value would be.
Important to note, though, is that the clause does not guarantee Fellaini will leave. If Everton qualify for the Champions League he may well stay, and that would give Everton the chance to re-negotiate the contract without the release clause. But with the Champions League race amongst the most competitive in the division, Fellaini’s release clause is probably best for all concerned.
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