It was confirmed yesterday that Everton rejected our bid of £12m for Leighton Baines and claimed that the full-back was “not for sale”. It’s a fairly awkward situation, given that David Moyes is still technically Everton’s manager and, just twelve months ago, he was fending off United’s interest by slapping an £18m price tag on the defender. Baines has since gone on to have the best season of his career and was voted in to the PFA Team of the Year.
Of course, there are generally very few players who actually aren’t for sale and at Everton, a club strapped for cash, it’s hard to imagine they would turn down a generous bid for any of their players. But do we want to see United spending £15m+ on Baines?
A few seasons ago I would have thought it was worth doing, particularly when Patrice Evra was going through a two year period of awful form, but surely the ship has sailed on this transfer. Baines turns 29-years-old before the turn of the year so we won’t get many years from him and won’t get much of a return if he turns out not to be good enough.
Whilst Baines is solid defensively, he’s also decent on the attack, scoring 5 and assisting 5 last season, but the duty of freekicks and corners will fall to Robin van Persie, making these attributes in Baines fairly redundant.
He did make an impressive 3.1 key passes per game though, which shadows the likes of Van Persie and Rooney, our highest with 1.8 per game, and certainly outshines Rafael (0.9) and Evra (0.7).
Some fans have argued that Evra, now 32-years-old, doesn’t need replacing after enjoying a “great” season in 2012-2013. Whilst Evra certainly improved on the two previous campaigns, his form last season was nothing like it was pre-2010. He added goals to the mix, which was great, but he was still left for dead by average wingers on too many occasions and caught out of position time and again.
I don’t mean to be overly critical of Evra, as I like him a lot, and if the club were to stick with him then that would be fine. His attitude and the way he speaks about the club probably buy him more time. But let’s not kid ourselves in to thinking that just because we like him a lot, that he is still a great first choice left-back, because he isn’t.
Evra has also been heavily linked with a return to Monaco and United’s bid for Baines suggests the club are considering letting him leave. If we were to factor in the money we recouped from Evra’s sale being reinvested in to buying Baines, then maybe £15m wouldn’t be too bad, but it is likely Everton will push for more than that.
We have some cover for the position already but it is unclear what lies ahead for Fabio da Silva and Alexander Buttner. It’s hard to believe that a couple of years ago Fabio was starting for United in the Champions League final. It doesn’t appear as though he set the world alight on his season long loan at QPR, according to their fans, but surely it’s worth giving him a go in our starting XI again. When you look at the progress Rafael made last season, managing to get through the season without any long term injuries for a change, Fabio’s got to be worth taking a chance on.
Buttner, in the limited opportunities he’s had, doesn’t look like he’ll ever cut it as anything more than back up for the position. He’s fairly exciting to watch going forward but defensively there’s still big question marks.
I wouldn’t go as far as saying I’d be disappointed if we signed Baines, as you can hardly turn your nose up at the league’s current best performing left-back, but I will be surprised. With the gaping hole in midfield and the worrying poor form from players on the wing, left-back just doesn’t seem a priority. However, if Evra is definitely off, then Baines would be a good enough replacement, as long as the price is right. It’s not a signing to get too excited about though.