Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines both had incredibly impressive seasons last year for the Toffees, and it’s naturally led to lots of speculation about their respective futures. Both players have drawn interest from a number of clubs around the world, and with Roberto Martinez conceding that either—and potentially both—players could leave Merseyside this summer according to the Daily Mirror, Everton clearly have a huge fight on their hands to ensure that both remain at Goodison Park for the new Premier League season.
However, while it might not be ideal, the reality is that Everton could well be forced into selling one player in order to keep the other for the year ahead.
So if it came to that, which star is worth keeping the most?
Given that Baines and Fellaini play very different positions, it is difficult to directly compare the two. Baines—a left-back—is going to make more tackles and clearances than Fellaini, and the central midfielder is going to have more shots on goal than the defender. Yet when we start to unpack their importance to Everton and their prowess and class in their respective positions, the standout choice becomes clear.
Baines. Leighton Baines.
Out of all defenders in Europe last season, Baines ranked first Total Performance Score. His attacking score was over 290 points clear of Eintracht Frankfurt’s Bastian Oczipka, and while that wasn’t quite matched by his total defensive score, he still did enough defensively to finish inside the top 10 for Defensive Score amongst Premier League defenders. Throughout the course of the season, Baines averaged a 79% success rate in his tackles and totalled 57 interceptions through the year as well.
Playing every minute of Everton’s 2012-13 Premier League campaign, Baines created a staggering 116 goal-scoring chances—which was more than some of world football’s best playmakers, such as Ozil and Iniesta. In fact, it was more than any other player in Europe. As a result, it was little surprise to see that over 25% of Everton’s total chances created last year came down the left flank.
However, Baines’ brilliance shouldn’t necessarily take anything away from Fellaini. The robust Belgian international was the club’s leading goalscorer last season and finished with the same number of assists as Baines. While expected goalscorers Nikica Jelavic and Kevin Mirallas struggled to find the attacking potency that they’d promised, Fellaini was a revolution in central midfield and constantly caused havoc for opposing defences—something that Manchester United saw firsthand on the opening day of the year.
Yet despite all of this, there’s just no way that Fellaini is more important to the Toffees than Baines.
Everton’s best game of the season came in their 3-0 defeat of Swansea early in the season. And while it might have been Fellaini who popped up on the scoresheet that day, it was Baines who was awarded the Man of the Match thanks to his dynamic performance down the left wing. Squawka’s Individual Heat Map shows just how involved Baines was on the left wing while Fellaini was more scattered in his involvement.
And while that’s just one match, it paints the season picture for both players and shows their respective importance—the Belgian might have scored the goals, but it was the Englishman who was the difference behind the scenes.
As such, it is more crucial that Everton keep Baines. He was the most creative player in all of Europe last year, and by far, the most important Toffees’ player as well.
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