EVERTON manager David Moyes has advised Marouane Fellaini to take a leaf out of Lionel Messi’s book when it comes to being on the receiving end of roughhouse tactics from opponents.
Midfielder Fellaini was left with a bleeding knee on Saturday by a tackle from Norwich’s Bradley Johnson, with no action being taken by referee Lee Mason. The Belgium international subsequently took retribution by barging Johnson over, which resulted in a free-kick and a stern talking-to.
Earlier this season, Fellaini was handed a three-game ban by the FA after headbutting Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross as the pair jostled for position – something he issued an apology for but also said he felt he had not been given any protection by the match officials.
Moyes has no doubt referees could do more to protect Fellaini, who he is convinced is singled out for particular treatment by opposing teams, and has told the 25-year-old to follow the lead of Barcelona’s superstar Messi.
Moyes said: “You trust them (officials) and expect them to go about their job the same for everybody. But if you look at him (Fellaini), you know he has to take as many challenges as anybody. He will give as many out, but I don’t think he gets protected as well as what there is when he is challenging somebody.
“It is frustrating, but I’ve got to say he has got good at it. I keep saying to him ‘look at Lionel Messi’ – he gets kicked every week.
“Everybody wants to kick him (Messi) because it is the only way to stop him, but all he ever does is sort of smile, get up and get on with it, and then does it again. So I have told him (Fellaini) he has to copy that. I don’t think he’ll ever be as good as that, but certainly in his temperament, he should try to be similar to Lionel Messi, who looks as if he just gets on and accepts that people have to try to stop him some way.”
Moyes was speaking ahead of tonight’s FA Cup fifth-round replay against npower League One Oldham at Goodison Park, in which his team will be looking to contain the threat of 6ft 6in striker Matt Smith.
Moyes, whose side are currently sixth in the Barclays Premier League, feels the frontman may provide his defence with a test quite different to those they are used to facing in the top flight. “That type of centre-forward was probably more prevalent in my day – we had one of them every week,” Moyes said.