As the January transfer window approaches it is possible to hear already the distant bustle of tents being pitched, sleeping bags unfurled, sandbags piled, prime pavement spots sniffily contested. Every year there is at least one guaranteed object of sales day frenzy, the season's most desirable must-have item to be scooped up by the January shopper with the sharpest elbows.

This year it is already clear who this going to be. The Bone China Tea Set Player of this year's January sale will be the Belgian Marouane Fellaini of Everton, a player who has consistently drawn ominous and unsettling attention to himself by playing with unsustainable excellence at a merely mid-to-high ranking club. There is a kind of unavoidable burden attached performing like this beneath the eyes of the Premier League's ruling powers, like coming into bloom as a beautiful peasant daughter in some seigneurial mediaeval fiefdom.

Cover yourself my dear, you can almost hear David Moyes hissing from behind his plough. Be not too becoming. The master shall notice.

This week Fellaini has been linked again with a move to Chelsea, on this occasion by none other than Fellaini himself, albeit in the form of a carefully nuanced denial. "I want to play for one of the biggest clubs one day, but I am patient," he said, ruling nothing out and ruling nothing in, but forced to squirm and equivocate in the familiar manner of the player who commits an offence against the natural hierarchy by remaining outstandingly well-used where he is when he could instead be experiencing the elite alienation of big‑club fringe-dom, high-fiving substituted team-mates, running on in a suit when other players win trophies, looking mildly concerned in a beanie hat and so on.

If this is a familiar story, Fellaini himself is an interesting case. Billed most often as an attacking midfielder, it is his sheer physical scale that tends to generate a familiar buzz of folkish excitement: the unusual breadth of his limbs, that vast bobbing head shrouded in its lustrous Bel-fro, the fact that often in the Premier League he looks a bit like a man kicking a balloon around in his socks at Christmas."Fellaini can be unplayable ," it is sometimes said, and English football has always loved this word with its suggestion of some state of unanswerable psychical ultimacy, of tiring of all the difficult, intricate stuff and simply turning the Scrabble board upside down, ripping up the exam paper. Andy Carroll in his best moments is described as "unplayable", albeit his career ambitions seem to have narrowed in recent weeks into a repeated attempt to execute successfully a flying overhead kick, leading him to spend large parts of any game writhing on his back like a giant doomed woodlouse.

It is easy to wonder what Fellaini might bring to Chelsea's already well‑stocked attacking midfield. At first glance, with his outsized physicality, his double-thickness limbs, he looks like another example of that recent phenomenon the Undercover Big Man, an attacking midfielder who lurks in fashionable areas but is there to perform what is essentially an old-fashioned concussive function, not so much playing in the hole as ripping you a new one.

Much has been made of Yaya Touré's highly effective runaway-caravan role at Manchester City, those periods when he is encouraged to gallop with the ball towards an opposing defence, a gambit that in its more unhinged moments brings to mind the final Lycra-ripping, vein-popping stages of the barrel-running round of the World's Strongest Man.

It isn't just size, though. Fellaini brings his own specialised skill: a unique ability to play football with his chest. Really, he is the best at this. A while back, Sky Sports' Goals on Sunday did a montage of Fellaini chest-skill and it was genuinely awe-inspiring, the Fellaini chest seeming to caress the ball, to guide and persuade it with a craftsman's precision.

Like all good players Fellaini can pass, run and finish. But uniquely this is a man who can also run a game with his chest, leaping to grab the ball out of its flight like a man taking a bullet for the president, cupping it, swilling it around, redirecting it with a single practised flex of a chest that must by now have the texture of a delightfully weathered and worn wicketkeeping glove of the 1930s.

Watching Fellaini it is tempting to conclude that the chest is an unfairly neglected tool. It slips through the gaps, failing to register in terms of stats or strategy in a world obsessed with the more obvious charms of the feet and forehead. Currently the chest probably stands a distant third in footballing importance, just in front of the knee. Perhaps part of its problem it is that it lacks a vocabulary of skills. You might want to describe Fellaini, for example, as having "an educated chest", but we never hear this kind of talk: a cultured chest, a jack-hammer of a chest, or for those whose chest work is obviously inadequate, a chest he just uses for holding his neck up. And the fact is the chest is a very difficult technique, a matter of timing, peripheral vision and basic courage to brave those moments where the ball strikes the chest with the horrible hollow thud, the nipple-skinning howl of pain familiar to any Sunday league player foolish enough to attempt it with insufficient give, timing or muscle bulk. All the more surprising, then, that there is no mention of the chest in any of the FA's headline coaching manuals of the last 30 years, not even in the long-ball bible of the 1980s The Winning Formula, with its seven pages on "lofted passes", its preoccupation with "the prime target area" and its single-page entry for something called "patience".

If the chest has always tended to be a source of mild distrust in English football, seen as a compromise, a fudge, halfway towards a handball, there have been plenty of great chesters around. I remember seeing Roberto Carlos pull a huge spiralling goal-kick out of the air with his chest. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who made his first appearance in top-level football only this week, is a brilliant chester. During Sweden's most rampant long ball period he would often use the chest to angle and flick and redirect like a man offering slip catching practice. Mark Hughes gave good chest. Joe Cole, by contrast has always seemed slightly troubled by the chest, constantly trying to tame some horribly bouncing ball surrounded by brontosaurus-thighed aggressors, chesting always in desperation where Fellaini, for example, wears the ball like a scarf.

For the neutral it is to be hoped that Fellaini will stay at Everton in January, if only because this seems to be good for him and good for Everton, not to mention good for those who admire chest work of the highest class. And perhaps in the end the chest simply needs a standard bearer.

This may yet be Fellaini, a man who – as it was once said of Ferenc Puskas's left foot – has a chest that is "like a hand". For now those going to watch football this weekend could even be encouraged to celebrate the chest a little when it appears, to lead a small ripple of connoisseurial applause of the type usually reserved for a sideways pass or a defensive punt into the top tier, sparing a thought for the third way, the game's one neglected border town between hoof and head.