Manchester United confirmed earlier this year that the optional extra 12 months on the contract that Marouane Fellaini signed when he first arrived at the club from Everton in 2013 had been triggered. That extended his terms until June 2018, but rumours this week have suggested that manager Jose Mourinho wants him to sign another deal and stay even longer.
It wasn't a popular news story. Fellaini - loudly booed by United fans at Old Trafford in December after having the misfortune of giving away a late penalty a week earlier against Everton - has been bearing the brunt of fan frustrations and criticisms ever since he arrived.
It wasn't Fellaini's fault that the joint failings of David Moyes and Ed Woodward in the 2013 summer transfer market resulted in him being the club's only signing at an unnecessarily inflated price. But he became a symbol of that failure and an obvious target for abuse.
A persistent wrist injury hampered his first season and prevented the Belgian from then proving the critics wrong. He enjoyed a much better couple of season under Louis van Gaal - Fellaini's performance in last season's FA Cup semi-final against Everton was just as big as Anthony Martial's - but he's been left nearly always been playing catch up to win supporters over.
Just this week he was lambasted for missing two chances in another game against Everton, both of which, in all honesty, were not exactly easy tap-ins.
Fellaini made an early mark on Mourinho, though. Rather than being quickly pushed out of the door, as some eagerly predicted, he was regularly starting in the first few months of the season at a time when Michael Carrick was being surprisingly overlooked and was later described by the United boss as being the 'natural replacement' for Paul Pogba - not in terms of style, but as first alternative in central midfield.
The 29-year-old, who often terrorised United in his Everton days - the kind of big-game performance that often tempted Sir Alex Ferguson to sign players from other Premier League clubs, hasn't really been involved as a starter since Christmas. But he remains one of the first options that Mourinho turns to when his preferred XI is unavailable, or a change is required.
Mourinho clearly trusts Fellaini. Although not as technically gifted as many of his team-mates, he gives his all whenever he is called upon, and will always loyally serve whichever manager he is playing for by following instructions and doing his job as best he can. His versatility and unique threat is an added bonus. Put simply, he's a valuable member of the squad, and, for that, he deserves to stick around.
Off the pitch, Fellaini comes across as mild-mannered and inoffensive. No squad could survive if it was full of individualistic superstars led by a headstrong egotist of a manager.
Mourinho has always relied on players like Fellaini to balance his squads - think Paulo Ferreira at Chelsea. For every Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Paul Pogba, you need a Fellaini or an Ashley Young, trustworthy players who are happy not be to be the centre of attention.
He's never likely to be a regular starter in the future, but nonetheless, Fellaini fills an important role at United. Modern football is a squad game, not even a team game, and if a new contract beyond 2018 really is coming his way, Marouane Fellaini deserves every bit of it.
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