Roberto Martinez believes Leighton Baines, arguably the best left fullback in the country, can prosper in a similar midfield role to Philipp Lahm.
So impressive has the progress Baines has made in recent times, he is now regarded as a certainty to line-up against Italy when England begin their World Cup campaign against Italy in Manaus on 14 June. This will be at the expense of the more experienced Ashley Cole who, despite his 107 international caps, could yet miss out on the squad due to his lack of action for Chelsea, and the 19-year-old Luke Shaw of Southampton.
But looking further ahead at club level, his Everton coach believes the 29-year-old can operate in a midfield role in the near future. Whilst this would seem a waste of a player so expert in his usual position, the Spaniard has noted how well German international Lahm has performed in a similarly advanced position for Bayern Munich, after the European champions converted the right-back to a deep lying midfield position.
“Leighton can play in midfield, 100 per cent,” Martinez said in The Telegraph. “I’m not sure if we will do it next season but in the future, definitely. He has got the know-how, he has got the experience, and the understanding. At the moment he needs to be a left-back and concentrate on that. But as a football club we will benefit so much from that flexibility.
“When you talk about Bayern Munich’s Philipp Lahm you talk about someone who is an example of a player who can be moved into different positions, be used in a different way. Leighton Baines is quite unique and he will always be what we associate him with. But he has a lot more in his football career ahead to look forward to.”
Baines is set to come face-to-face with his former manager on Sunday afternoon, when ex-Toffees boss David Moyes takes his Manchester United side to Goodison Park. Despite his good work during a decade in the blue half of Merseyside, the Scot is far from assured of a good reception due to his raid on his old club during the summer window, when he failed to sign the former Wigan Athletic man but did take Marouane Fellaini.
The Belgian international has struggled for form during his time in Manchester thus far, having shown very little proof that he was worth the £28million fee which prised him to Old Trafford. Indeed, speaking ahead of the match which could finally end United’s top-four hopes, Martinez claims he would struggle to include the midfielder in his side.
“It could have been very different,” he said. “Now you’re looking at James McCarthy, Gareth Barry, and Leon Osman – where would Fellaini have fitted? Football you move on so quickly. I’m just so happy with the squad that we have. It looks like this side has been playing together for the last five years. So it could have been very difficult.”