Everton manager Roberto Martinez says it is “refreshing” that John Heitinga rejected a move to West Ham for football reasons.
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The defender pulled out of a move to Upton Park on Thursday, saying that he was unsure it was a good career move. Heitinga insisted that money was not an issue in his decision, and Martinez has praised him for putting his principles first.
The Spaniard told a news conference: “We understand what happened, and it’s refreshing to see that a player wants to have the right feeling before he accepts the next chapter in his career.”
Netherlands international Heitinga, whose Everton contract runs out in June, has said that he needs to be playing regularly to increase his chances of making the World Cup squad.
He has not played a single minute of Premier League football for Martinez this season, with his only two appearances coming in the Capital One Cup.
West Ham had agreed a deal to sign Heitinga, but he then released a statement on Thursday, saying: “You have to be fully convinced that you will make the right step, and I didn't have that.”
The defender returned to training with Everton on Friday and could be involved in the squad for Saturday’s FA Cup third-round home game against QPR.
Martinez added: “Johnny is coming back today and he’s going to train and be part of the squad again. You need to understand that was a personal agreement.
“I’ve always felt that Johnny has been a terrific servant to Everton and now he is at a key moment of his career. The World Cup is around the corner. The next month is very important for Johnny’s needs.
“We agreed terms with West Ham, but then obviously everything is down to the player feeling that it’s the right move for his career. I will support Johnny and the football club will support Johnny in his decision and we’ll help him to make it work.”
Heitinga and striker Nikica Jelavic will be allowed to leave Everton in January if the right offer comes in.
Croatia international Jelavic, who has gone nearly 10 months without scoring, has featured only sporadically for his club this season and -- like Heitinga -- is seeking regular games to secure a World Cup place.
Martinez said: “If it’s a situation where Niki can play football and prepare for his World Cup campaign, and as a football club we get a deal that allows us to move on, then we will look into it and consider that. We’ve been very open about that.”
Everton’s manager, who won the FA Cup when in charge at Wigan last season, has pledged to take the competition seriously again after his Aston Villa counterpart Paul Lambert dismissed the competition as a distraction.
Lambert said he believes most Premier League clubs could do without the extra fixtures, but Martinez said: “I think it’s a unique competition. There’s nothing else like it.
“There is the philosophy that everyone is entitled to chase a dream, and we’re going to give it everything we’ve got in this competition.”