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Retaining Baines Is Key | £12M Won’t Fill The Void He’d Leave

My heart was in my mouth last night when I heard of Everton’s rumoured interest in Sunderland’s Kieran Richardson.  Not due to Richardson himself, but what it may signal for Leighton Baines’ future at the club.  Moments after tweeting my concerns, my worst nightmare appeared to become a reality according to the Mirror;

“Bye bye Baines: Man United have opened talks with Everton over £12m move for England full-back”.

Some have suggested that that any interest in Richardson throws into question the pursuit of Steven Pienaar but I seriously doubt that his acquisition would signal an end to Moyes’ interest in  bringing the South African to Goodison.

David Moyes has previously hinted that it may be necessary to off-load one of his more valuable assets in order to generate the funds required to bring in more quality to the club.  So could Baines be that option?  Baines has 3 years left on his contract and is settled at the club, and unlike some has never indicated any desire to move elsewhere.  But do Everton fans have anything to worry about?  And if Moyes were to let his England ace go, is Richardson the right man to replace the talented left-back?

In an ideal world, I would have both at the club.  Baines has become an intergral part to England’s style of play, the focal point of most of Everton’s set-pieces and the stand out contributor to the creation of chances going forward; eseentially he has become imperative to the overall success of Everton football club.

Richardson, who has a wealth of Premier League experience, a left foot and pace to burn would be a welcome addition to the Everton squad; he would add similar qualities to those that Royston Drenthe offered (minus the volatility) coupled with a defensive capability that would provide cover for Leighton should he get injured again.

This is something Everton have lacked for some time and a need that, at the moment, is met by disrupting the central defensive partnership of Johnny Heitinga and Sylvain Distin.  Is believing Baines will remain a Blue simply choosing to ignore the inevitable and hoping for the best?  Unfortunately it is all Everton fans can do right now.

Whatever happens will happen no matter what the fans think.  We will have to consider all possible outcomes, one being that United will steal the England full back from the clutches of the Toffees.

If Sir Alex were to snatch the best left back in the Premier League then former United player Kieran Richardson may be lined up as his replacement, at least for the short term.  Essentially, Richardson is a utility player, having played in a number of different positions during his time under Ferguson and a number of Sunderland managers; he has played numerous games on the left and in central midfield, in the supporting role just off the main striker and has also played a good proportion of games at left back.

You would think that, should Baines leave the club to boost Moyes’ transfer kitty (always assuming he was to be given all the proceeds of any potential sale), then Pienaar would be a first priority.  This then leaves a vacant left back spot which presumably a player like Richardson would fill.  However, Richardson’s favoured position would be on the left wing which then begs the question – is Richardson an alternative to Pienaar, but someone who could also fill in at left back if required?  The permutations are endless.

Kieran Richardson’s attacking inclinations would be some consolation for the loss of Baines, but I am not as confident regarding his defensive qualities, or at least that they would match the standard Baines maintains.  As I have previously mentioned, Richardson is pretty quick, possibly faster than Baines but the key to his potential success at Everton (in the left back position) would depend primarily on whether he could form the kind of seemingly telepathic understanding with Pienaar that Leighton Baines has achieved; again assuming of course that the Spurs midfielder is an Everton player before the start of the next campaign.

The dynamic partnership between Baines and Pienaar has reaped dividends for Everton, and I fear that this harmony of footballing thought is a rarity, something that may be difficult to recreate; certainly in the short term.

At 27, Richardson is still only in the middle of his career; with only one year left on his contract the Englishman has reportedly no intention of extending his stay at Sunderland beyond this.  It therefore appears that Richardson’s future almost certainly lies away from the Stadium of Light.

In a career so far totalling 186 appearances, Richardson has scored 19 goals and produced 27 assists, most of these during his time at Sunderland.  He is also a dead-ball specialist, and in this sense, would possibly take on the mantle relinquished by a departing Baines should he move on to pastures new.

Other clubs have shown an interest in the Sunderland player, with Sam Allardyce and West Ham seemingly Everton’s main rivals for the capture of the 27 year old’s signature.  It is thought that Richardson is looking to move south after spending a number of years in the north of England, but the draw of a possible European challenge next year may just sway Kieran’s attentions towards an ambitious and developing Everton side.

Richardson will also be looking to reignite his England career after a number of years on the side-lines; a senior international career that began in explosive fashion when scoring two goals in his first full appearance for his country against the USA back in 2005.

Offers in the region of £12 million have been broadcast across the tabloids and social networking sites, but also claiming that Bill Kenwright would be unwilling to let Baines go for anything less than £15 million.  Perhaps my own valuation of Baines may be somewhat inflated given I don’t have many comparisons in terms of top-class full back transfers in this country.  But, surely Baines is worth more than this?

If Real Madrid left back Fabio Coentrao is worth a reported £24 million, then surely Baines be valued closer to this figure?  Does Everton’s much publicised financial status mean clubs can hope to prise away our star players for less than their true value?  It is admittedly somewhat optimistic to hope that Everton would receive this kind of figure for Baines, but given his age and the fact he is English, £15 million just doesn’t cut it for me,  I would like to see Kieran Richardson in a blue shirt next season, but hopefully alongside Baines and rather than at this expense.  I am optimistic Baines will stay, but I am hoping this optimism isn’t misplaced.

Every player has his price, that is an uncompromising fact in modern day football, but as previously mentioned there is no guarantee that Moyes would be given all of the money recouped by such a sale in order to strengthen the squad; who knows how much the banks would demand to reduce the overdraft.  That being the case, would Baines’ sale actually lead to the influx of new players or would Everton simply be losing not only the best left back in the league also (if Pienaar was to return as expected) Everton’s most potent partnership in terms of footballing productivity and value.

Selling Baines would certainly weaken the squad and Moyes should be looking to hold on to  as many of his best players as possible.  If needs be, I would certainly settle for smart loan moves and shrewd free transfers if it meant holding on to Baines for the foreseeable future.

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Article title: Retaining Baines Is Key | £12M Won’t Fill The Void He’d Leave

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