David Moyes is not the greatest fan of the January transfer window and is usually glad when it closes. While Everton do not like to regard themselves as a selling club, everyone knows the history and the financial situation, and Moyes will keep turning out sides with players good enough to attract interest from clubs in the Champions League bracket.
"We always seem to have players the top clubs are looking at," the Everton manager said. "That means I always end up relieved if we reach the end of January without selling anyone important."
Sunday's opponents Chelsea were linked with a move for Leighton Baines a few days ago, though Moyes is keen to play that down, and just about everyone in Europe is interested in Marouane Fellaini. Moyes would rather keep the powerful Belgian than cash in, but he knows what that would take.
"If you want to keep your top players you have to give them European football," he said. "That's what everyone wants nowadays, and if you can't deliver they will eventually move elsewhere. If we could make the Champions League this season we would have a real chance of holding on to Fellaini, but that's a big ask for us. Yes, we are keeping pace with Chelsea and Arsenal at the moment, but if you were a betting man, looking at our history of competing in the European Cup, or not competing after Heysel, you would have to say we are outsiders. I don't want to talk down our chances, the Champions League is what we are aiming for, but at the same time you have to be realistic. The only time we have managed a Champions League finish in my time we were unable to get past the qualifiers."
What Moyes remembers from that period in 2005 is the number, and the quality, of players from leading European sides who were suddenly keen on joining Everton. That made a refreshing change, and with a little bit more television money this time and a lot more experience, he would very much like to go through the process again. "I couldn't believe the players I was speaking to on the phone," he recalled. "I was almost starstruck. That is definitely the next level to aim for, because while I feel we have become quite a consistent force in the league, we do need to keep the progression going. The worry for me is that we cannot afford to stand still or slip back."
Team-building would be so much easier with the sort of money clubs can pick up in the Champions League, for while Moyes did better than most managers last January by hiring Nikica Jelavic and securing Steven Pienaar's return, he was only able to do so because Spartak Moscow paid £5.5m for Diniyar Bilyaletdinov. Everton lost money on a player they had signed for £10m, but Moyes knew exactly how he could spend £5.5m and proceeded to do so. "We feel we spent the money well, but raising £5.5m in the first place was the key last January," he said. "Having good players in place from the beginning of the present season also helped us make a decent start."
Through his plentiful Belgian contacts Moyes was aware of Eden Hazard earlier than most, but had a hunch he might go to someone like Chelsea for much more than Everton could afford. While he wishes he had Chelsea's resources at his disposal, he bears Rafa Benítez no ill will, even after a few dust-ups when both were on Merseyside.
"He is an experienced manager and he is showing that," he said. "He was in charge of an outstanding squad during his time at Liverpool and now he's got another one at Chelsea. It doesn't surprise me that Chelsea are doing well again, there is such a well-established core of solid professionals at that club it could probably run itself.
"I am a bit surprised they seem to want to let Frank Lampard go, when you see what Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs are still doing for Manchester United, but Chelsea are a club with expensive tastes. They have probably got someone young and amazing lined up to replace him."
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