Marouane Fellaini has been urged to model himself on Lionel Messi as he prepares to make his comeback from suspension at Newcastle on Wednesday night.
The fiery Everton midfielder reiterated his apology for the headbutt on Ryan Shawcross that cost him a red card at Stoke and reassured manager David Moyes over his future by insisting he would not try to engineer a move away from Goodison Park in the January transfer window.
But while Everton will welcome him back after three games out for violent conduct, Moyes is taking steps to ensure there is no repeat of the costly loss of control.
“If I was playing against Felli, I’d try and wind him up,” said the former Preston centre-half.
“Anybody would. It’s what happens with good players, and I keep telling him he just has to get on with it.
“The best person to look at for that is Lionel Messi. Every person targets him, everyone tries to kick him and stop him. They’ll do everything. He is the best in the world and he gets physically attacked every game, but all he ever does is get up and get on with it. That is the sign of a top player.
“I feel as if Felli let us down at Stoke, but that is in the past. He has paid his punishment, as we have as well, but I don’t have any concerns about his character overall.”
Despite being targeted by Chelsea and Manchester United, Fellaini claimed he was in no hurry to leave Goodison. “I have a contract with Everton until 2016 and, if the club want, I will see that out,” he said. “I know I am hot, and I want to move forward one day, but I will finish my Everton contract if they want me to.
“Normally I am an honest player but that was just frustration at Stoke. Shawcross was pushing and pulling me the whole game and, in the end, I just exploded. But I shouldn’t have, and I’m sorry for what I did.”
Fellaini, 25, revealed how he has become a target for unwanted attention off the pitch and has been forced to move away from Merseyside.
“I am living in Manchester now, because in Liverpool, the women were crawling for me,” he said. “It was too much. In Manchester, people don’t recognise me that much and tend to treat me in a more respectful way. I don’t want to be a star. I just want to play football.” [GN]