After a stellar season that’s likely to have earned him a move to one of the country’s big hitters, it may come as a surprise to see Marouane Fellaini omitted from our Everton team of the century.
The comically coiffed Belgian star has undoubted quality, but ghosts of Toffees’ past have performed better in positions in which he could expect to feature.
Starting from the back, however, there is only one name fitting to stand between the sticks. Tim Howard has made 310 appearances since his 2006-07 switch to Goodison from Manchester United, even managing to score a goal in that time. His consistent performances make him a shoo-in for the number one jersey.
Tony Hibbert is arguably the most no-frills footballer on the planet, but his unexciting, steady-eddy style has served the club well throughout his 13-year Everton career. Plus, he wasn’t given an off the ball rating of 20 on Football Manager for nothing.
Leighton Baines is an obvious choice at left back. His first-rate set piece delivery is a massive asset to any side, while his defending has improved hugely in recent seasons.
A central defensive pairing of Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka provides a strong mix of pace and organisational ability, as well as the all-important potential for ball retention. This is why players like David Weir, Joseph Yobo and Alan Stubbs all missed out.
Another loyal Evertonian occupies the right midfield berth. Leon Osman combines decent technical ability with an above average work ethic, while he’s always capable of popping up with an important goal or two; assets that earned him England recognition last season.
Steven Pienaar starts on the left flank, largely owing to the understanding he and Baines share from an attacking perspective. An apparent telepathy exists between the pair, with the South African always looking to slide in his full back on the overlap. A player of such guile is a rarity at Goodison and he has played a significant part in their recent successes.
In the middle of the park lies a classic brains and brawn combination. Granted, this does make them sound like a crime-fighting duo, but few would doubt Mikel Arteta and Thomas Gravesen’s credentials to fill these rolls. Both earned moves to two of the planet’s biggest clubs on account of the standard they showcased on the blue half of Merseyside and this takes a chunk of the blame as to why Fellaini didn’t make the cut.
Playing off the front is where the main cause of Fellaini’s absence sits. Tim Cahill proved to be one of the Premier League’s finest signings for his ability to bag a goal and his aerial prowess was as good as any, despite his demeaning stature. The Australian bagged 68 in 278 appearances following a £1.5m switch from Millwall in 2004, contrast this to Fellaini’s 32 in 178 after costing 10 times the amount and the situation becomes easily resolvable.
Wayne Rooney must make do with a place on the sidelines in favour of a true Goodison legend in Duncan Ferguson. He may have enjoyed better days in the previous century but, on reputation alone, ‘Big Dunc’ simply must lead the line of the finest Everton team since 2000.
With the majority of this side still plying their trade with the Toffees, they will be looking to build on their sixth place finish this term by qualifying for next season’s Champions League. They’re 20/1 for a top-four berth in 2013/14.
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