Leighton Baines has signed a new contract at Everton, and Roberto Martinez believes the fullback has yet to reach the peak of his game.
The 28-year-old has long been regarded as one of the best left-backs in the Premier League, and his performances over the past few seasons have propelled him as one of the finest in Europe. Indeed, he is now expected to be England’s first choice at the World Cup, ahead of long-term selection Ashley Cole.
It is no surprise, then, that his former Toffees manager David Moyes spent a large portion of the summer trying to prise him to Old Trafford. At least one bid was made for his signature but it was clear the Merseyside club had no intention of selling, even though he was keen to sample UEFA Champions League football.
Such a platform is certainly not beyond Everton next season, as they are currently sixth in the table. And ahead of their clash with Liverpool on Tuesday, which could see them leapfrog their rivals into fourth position, they have received a huge boost with the news that Baines has signed a new contract.
This will keep the defender in the blue half of Merseyside until the summer of 2018, by which time he will be 33-years-old, which effectively ties him to the club for the rest of his career. And Martinez believes that as good as the former Wigan Athletic ace has been of late, he will continue to improve in the future.
“We are all excited that Leighton will be able to have a long-term future with the club,” he said. “I know fans will be delighted because he is more than a footballer at the club. You look how important he is with the daily standards, the influence he has with the younger players. I am just looking what Leighton can do in the next four years in the dressing room and it is going to be as good as it gets.
“It represents a strong intent of trying to progress and get stronger and Leighton will bring that on the football pitch. He has been performing as one the best left-backs in European football and the best is yet to come. To have Leighton with the focus and tranquility to be at Everton for the long term is an incredible boost.”
Moyes, meanwhile, is still keen to add sign a new left-back for his United side. Regular pick Patrice Evra is approaching the end of his contract at Old Trafford, whilst Alexander Buttner is yet to convince he is a capable replacement, and Fabio da Silva looks set for Cardiff City. With Baines no longer a viable option, Southampton youngster Luke Shaw, rated at £22million, has emerged as top target.