With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Marouane Fellaini looks set for a bumper new deal at Manchester United.
The Belgian is reportedly holding out for a significant pay rise on his current £80,000-per-week terms, and Jose Mourinho is pushing for the club’s hierarchy to tie down the midfielder, who has become a key player for the Red Devils under the Portuguese tactician.
Fellaini hasn’t always been a welcome figure at Old Trafford, though. Our friends at Football Whispers take look at how the former Everton man has gone from being an expensive flop to on the verge of a huge new contract to extend his United stay into a fifth season.
Signed for £27.5million on deadline day of the 2013 summer transfer window, Fellaini’s arrival at Old Trafford was greeted with little fanfare as fans had their hearts set on seeing bigger, more established names arrive at Old Trafford to soften the blow of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement.
David Moyes, installed as Ferguson’s replacement at the helm of the Red Devils, failed to land top targets Cesc Fabregas and Thiago Alcantara, and then turned his attention to a couple of familiar faces from former club Everton.
The Scot wanted to take both Leighton Baines and Fellaini with him to Old Trafford, but United couldn’t secure the former, and only landed the Belgian after his contractual release clause had expired, meaning the 20-time champions had to fork out an extra £5million to get the deal done.
It was a bumbling summer of transfer business which set the tone for a dreadful nine months at United for Moyes, and Fellaini has struggled to shake his association with the man who signed him.
Long after Moyes had departed, many United fans still viewed the former Standard Liege midfielder as a relic of an era they’d much rather forget.
Furthermore, Fellaini appeared to be stylistically at odds with the kind of fast, attacking football United fans demand of their side.
At 6ft 4ins, the Belgian international is a powerful presence in the air, but often appears to be lacking the speed of thought and movement conducive to the free-flowing play expected of the Red Devils.
The low point of his United career seemed to be reached early last season when the Manchester giants travelled to Goodison Park to take on his former side.
Holding on to a slender 1-0 lead, Jose Mourinho brought Fellaini off the bench with the idea of shoring up midfield and offering protection to the backline to see out the result.
But a clumsily conceded penalty, which was converted, cost United two points and made Fellaini a target for United fans’ collective ire.
He was even subjected to boos as Old Trafford at times last term.
However, Mourinho has always maintained that he views Fellaini is a key player and stuck up for the maligned star.
Gradually Mourinho’s expert man management started to have the desired effect, with Fellaini’s performances improving as the season wore on, culminating in a man-of-the-match-worthy display in the 2-0 Europa League final victory over Ajax in May.
Over the summer, when Galatasaray tried to sign Fellaini, Mourinho insisted the player was not for sale and that the Turkish club had more chance of signing him than the former Everton man.
And Fellaini has started the current campaign in fine fettle with four goals to his name already.
In light of Paul Pogba’s hamstring injury, the Belgian has come into the team, keeping last season’s Player of the Year, Ander Herrera, out of the side, and impressing in place for the £89million Frenchman.
More confident than ever, Fellaini’s technical skills now match his physical, stringing passes together and dictating play in a way that most thought he was incapable of.
In January, Fellaini will be free to negotiate a summer move away from Old Trafford on a free, and Mourinho is desperate to keep his key man.
Reports suggest the 29-year-old is aware that his next contract will be the last big one of his career, and is holding out to ensure his value is reflected by any deal.
That could set United back as much as £130,000 a week, but Mourinho thinks Fellaini is worth every penny.