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Where will Everton’s Leighton Baines be playing come August?

We are only just approaching the end of May, but once again there are rumours aplenty linking Everton players with exits from Goodison Park this Summer.

At a special Q&A evening for Season Ticket holders last month, chief executive Robert Elstone was refreshingly honest in his admission that we would have to ‘sell to buy’ this Summer. We are led to believe that David Moyes will meet Bill Kenwright this week to discuss the our intentions in the upcoming transfer window. With our budget one can assume that it will a short meeting.
One rumour that persists in most of the newspapers is the one linking Leighton Baines to FA Cup winners Manchester City. There has, reportedly, been interest from a number of other clubs, namely Arsenal and Tottenham, but it is unlikely that these clubs would be willing to match a bid the size of the £25 million one that Manchester City are said to be preparing. It is also thought that Baines would prefer to stay in the North-West of the country.
It was only last Summer that City spent £26 million on a pair of left-backs, with the signings of Aleksandar Kolarov and Jerome Boateng from Lazio and Hamburg respectively. Kolarov has been solid throughout his debut season in England and, like Baines, is a potent attacking threat. However, Boateng is said to be unhappy at being second in the pecking order and at times he has even been overlooked in favour of Joleon Lescott, who was, of course, the individual at the centre of a monumental transfer tussle between Everton and City during the Summer of 2009.
Here’s my views on the Baines transfer possibility. I DO NOT want Leighton Baines to leave the club. Undoubtedly our player of the season, he has been our saviour at times in an extremely tough campaign. There are so many highlights from his individual season; the free kicks at White Hart Lane and in the fourth round of the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge, his performance against Chelsea in the league match at Stamford Bridge which single-handedly salvaged us a point, not forgetting his FA Cup goal at Glanford Park that has made the shortlist for goal of the season.
I really hope that Baines stays at the club. If I were to place a bet on where he would playing come September, I would say Goodison Park. He is a boyhood blue, is in the form of his life and enjoying his football.
However, we must face the facts, and there are reasons why he may want out. He is 26 years old and may feel that he needs to move to make he most out of his prime footballing years. Due to whatever reason (money, money and more money), City are much more likely than us to win a major trophy. They would provide a stage for Baines to compete on a level that he is capable of playing at, a level that he will not be able to play at with Everton for the foreseeable future at least.
He will be able to test himself in the Champions League against the best players in the world, the ultimate aim in club football. On the international stage he is currently on the fringes of the England squad, but it is a sad fact of life that he would be first-choice ahead of Ashley Cole if he played for a ‘bigger club’.
Again, I state that I would love him to stay, but I recognise he may have good reason to leave. So, if the worst came to the worst, what would happen?
Moyes needs to confront the dilemma now. He needs to talk with Baines and his agent, discuss the possible moves. He should try to convince him to stay and if a more lucrative contract is needed to do that then so be it. If, however, Baines has decided he wants to move on, get the deal done quickly. We need time to replace him, to use the money to strengthen other areas of our squad, and to prepare for life without him. When Lescott left in 2009 he did so in the very last week of the window, leaving little time for us to adjust. It left us unsettled and badly prepared and I have no doubt that this was a major factor behind our disastrous start to that season.
If we do decide to sell, Moyes needs to get a deal that will appease the fans and, at the same time, benefit the club.
If I were the Moyesiah, and IF Baines wanted to leave, I would sell him for £15 million + Jerome Boateng. The City left-back is a good defender of international class and if Baines arrived at Eastlands he (Boateng) would be relegated to being the third choice left-back there. At a Baines-less Everton he would be first-choice. He may not carry the attacking threat of Baines but he is a more than able replacement.
What’s more, this could provide us with about £15 million to improve other areas of the squad. I reckon we could sign Landon Donovan on a permanent deal for £10 million – surely he would love another stab at the best league in the world? The remaining millions would be given to Moyes to work his magic – to find a signing in the mould of the Cahill and Arteta signings. As per usual at this time in the footballing calendar we have been linked with a number of players and £5 million could secure someone such as Espanyol winger Jose Callejon, who we are said to have been tracking.
I repeat again, I want Baines to stay. But if he wants to leave, tell him to pack his bags straight-away. Get in a replacement left-back and use the rest of the money wisely.
No player is bigger than Everton Football Club.

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