Ashley Cole may have been selected to start England's friendly against Brazil – but Kevin Kilbane believes Leighton Baines now holds the title of the country’s best left-back.
The Chelsea defender will reach a century of caps in Wednesday’s game at Wembley after his place in the first eleven was confirmed by Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson.
However Kilbane, who amassed 110 appearances for the Republic of Ireland, believes it is only a matter of time before Cole is dethroned by Baines, who had previously started four of the last five England internationals.
“The potential was always there with Leighton when I was with him at Wigan. He has just gone on and shown what a good player he is,” Kilbane told evertontv when he returned to Goodison as a special guest for the weekend match against Aston Villa.
“When he first came to Everton he didn’t really play for a while, he was in and out of the team. But since he has got into the side he has had a really good run at it.
“He is amongst the best in the country and he is probably England’s best left-back now. I firmly believe that.
“He can score goals, create goals and with the form he is in at the moment he can go on to even better things with England.
“I hope Everton can keep him and he can show his best form for the rest of his career here at Goodison Park.”
Kilbane also revealed how he influenced Baines’ move to Goodison Park in the summer of 2007 after providing a glowing reference to members of Everton's backroom staff.
“There were quite a few clubs in for him when he was due to leave Wigan because of his potential and the ability that he had,” Kilbane recalled.
“He was being touted with a few places and I had a phone call from one or two of the coaching staff at Goodison asking what he was like, about his character and how good of a player he is.
“I couldn’t speak highly enough of the club to Leighton and obviously about him to the coaching staff. I was really pleased that he did move here because I felt that this was the best club for him to come to.”
While Baines is likely to start from the bench against Brazil, there could still be a place in the England team for Leon Osman, who is in contention to earn his second cap against the South Americans.
Similarly to Baines, Kilbane believes the Blues midfielder more than merits the opportunity to mix it with the world’s best.
Kilbane continued: “I was delighted when he got his first England call-up against Sweden. I think it was fully deserved because he has been consistently at the top of his game for four or five years.
“When I first came to Goodison, I didn’t know too much of Leon. He was a young player who’d had a lot of injuries and he hadn’t made his Everton debut at that time. But I was amazed by his ability and how good he was on the ball.
“He went on loan to Derby and Carlisle whilst I was here and he came back at the end of my first season and hit the ground running.
“He scored against Wolves and has just gone on to bigger and better things. He’s an excellent player who is very under-rated.”