Everton manager David Moyes has called on midfielder Marouane Fellaini to look to Lionel Messi for inspiration. The Belgian international was banned for three matches following a physical altercation with Stoke City captain Ryan Shawcross.
The Premier League match, in mid-December, between the Toffees and the Potters ended in a 1-1 draw. Everton managed to win two of the three games Fellaini was banned for but Sunday's 1-2 home defeat to Chelsea illustrated the impact Fellaini can have when playing against top-quality opposition.
"The best person you have to look at is Lionel Messi. Every person targets him, they'll do everything. But all he ever does is get up and get on with it. That's the sign of a top player. It says to people, 'Whatever you do, it doesn't affect me. I tell Felli that you just have to get on with it. If I was playing against Felli, I'd try and wind him up," Moyes explained to the Daily Star.
The defeat to the Blues leaves Everton in sixth, five points off a Champions League position for next year and one behind Arsenal in the race for a UEFA Europa League spot. The Toffees are set to play Newcastle United on Wednesday, in the late kick-off. And the good news for fans is that Fellaini will start the game.
Fellaini, 25, has carried Everton for most of this season, top scoring for the club with eight league goals from 15 starts. The midfielder's form has attracted the attention of several top clubs, with Chelsea and Arsenal both credited with concrete interest. The player himself was quoted as suggesting he felt it was time to leave Goodison Park but has since promised to see out his contract with the club. Fellaini signed for Everton in 2008.
"I want to go higher in football but I have a contract with Everton until 2016 and, if they want me to, I will see it out to the end," the midfielder explained.
Finally, Fellaini has apologised for his fight with Shawcross.
"My headbutt on Ryan Shawcross was frustration, as he had spent the entire game pulling and pushing me, but I shouldn't have butted him. I exploded and I am sorry for doing so," he was quoted as saying, ahead of the game at St James' Park.