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Everton feud indicates fifth is the immediate target for Mark Hughes and Manchester City

They’ve made a lot of signings this summer, but only managed to enrage Everton in the process. For Mark Hughes and Manchester City, surely that is no coincidence?

Lescott: Could his immediate future decide who finishes fifth come May?

Lescott: Could his immediate future decide who finishes fifth come May?

Ask Alex Ferguson, and he’ll surely tell you (no doubt with a certain amount of glee) that stirring up trouble with rivals in the media can often have more of an effect on their fortunes than anything you do to them on the pitch.

Last season, Ferguson’s subtle baiting of Rafa Benitez lead to the Spaniard’s infamous “these are the facts” rant, a rant that preceded a noticeable drop in form — one that ultimately cost the Reds the title.

Some might not believe in the effect of Rafa’s rant, but to fans at Old Trafford the meltdown certainly didn’t hurt their march to the title. Taking that on board, rivals Manchester City are now trying their hand at unsettling their own league rivals.

The fact that it is Everton being unsettled gives the clearest indication yet that fifth is the position Mark Hughes is targeting this season.

After John Terry ended his silent summer flirtation with the club, Everton’s Joleon Lescott has become the subject of Hughes’ affection. But manager David Moyes has been left outraged by the way the Eastlands club has handled the deal:

“The dialogue has not taken place with Manchester City and Everton in the way that it is said to be. If it was, the dialogue would come to me,” he said. “There has been no contact with me. I’m the person here who makes the decisions. I’m in control of Everton Football Club.”

Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers have had no complaints over their dealings with City earlier this summer. It is just too much of a coincidence that it is only Everton that City’s dealings have upset.

“The way it has been handled is disgusting and all it has done is disrupted our club. There has not been one call. It’s disappointing,” Moyes continued.  

“We have got a player who we really value and we want to keep. We think the world of him and he can play two positions. We don’t want to lose him. Yet he is being continually put in a position like he is at this moment in time.”

Hughes is no fool, and realizes that a fifth place finish in league is the lowest position he can realistically end the season and still expect to keep his job into 2010-11. Everton finished their last year, so they are naturally the team that must be overcome. The opportunity to sign one of their star players (and unsettle the club in the process) has proven too good to miss.

“Real Madrid gave Manchester United the opportunity to spend the money or do what they want with the finances. That has not been the way this has gone about,” insisted Moyes. “We had the first offer of £15m four weeks ago – the day before we played Rochdale [17 July]. The second bid was on 29 July. The business was very late coming and not at the price.

“What did they pay for Gareth Barry? £12m. And how long did he have left on his contract? 12 months. How many months has Joleon Lescott got left on his deal? 36 months.

Manchester City’ fight for Champions League football, and in the process breaking up the “Big Four”, has been the main topic of conversation in the build-up to the new season. But in their attempts to unsettle Everton, Hughes has perhaps unwittingly revealed that his ambitions, at the beginning of the season at least, are slightly more moderate than that.

Everton, though, wont be going down without a fight.

“We are their rivals. We have got to do what is right for our football club. What is right for us at this moment in time is that Joleon Lescott stays.”

Perhaps the Englishman’s destination come September could decide which side occupies fifth place come next May.

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August 15, 2009 - Posted by | Sport, World Football | , , , ,

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