Leighton Baines handed Everton a major boost ahead of Tuesday’s grudge match with local rivals Liverpool when he committed his future to the club by signing a new four-year deal.
The England international had 17 months left on his contract and despite media reports that he was wanted by former manager David Moyes at Manchester United, the left back has chosen to remain at Goodison Park.
“It would be an understatement to say we are delighted to secure the best footballing years of Leighton Baines at our club,” manager Roberto Martinez told the club website on Monday.
“It’s a massive boost and exciting for the future. Leighton has just turned 29 and brings the right measure of maturity and football knowledge in a very specialised position on the pitch, bringing an infectious and positive influence.”
The news comes at the perfect time for the blue side of Merseyside as sixth-placed Everton look to claim their first win at the Anfield home of their great rivals since 1999.
Everton are flourishing under Spaniard Martinez and only one point separates them from Liverpool in fourth as both push for a lucrative spot in next season’s Champions League.
The form of Baines, who joined Everton from Wigan Athletic in 2007 and has made more than 260 appearances for the club, has been important and the club were desperate not to lose another key player following Marouane Fellaini’s departure to United last year.
Baines is also a key member of Roy Hodgson’s England side and is competing with Chelsea’s Ashley Cole for a starting spot ahead of the World Cup in Brazil in June.
“I know every fan will be delighted with the news and we all share that excitement looking at what’s left of this campaign and beyond,” Martinez added.
“With the crucial games we have ahead it is going to be vitally important to have Leighton’s experience there to help us fight for our aims.”