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Stoke City (A) Wed 4 Mar 2015, 19:45, Barclays Premier League

by Matthew Gamble @efc_mattgamble

Roberto Martinez can't wait to start working with Everton 'icon' Leighton Baines.

Baines has been the subject of transfer speculation this summer with Manchester United reportedly interested in his services.

But new Everton manager Martinez has made it clear he sees the England left-back as a hugely important part of Everton's future.

Martinez said: "I think Leighton is more than a player, he is an icon.

“He represents a lot about our football club and I am really, really excited about Leighton.

“A lot of people sometimes get upset when other clubs show an interest in your players - I always feel that that is a real compliment because that means Leighton is working and progressing really well.

“But obviously he is someone who is vital for our future and for what we are going to achieve.”

Baines revealed last month his excitement about being part of a new era at Goodison Park and that sentiment is reciprocated by the Blues boss.

“This is a big season for him and for us as a club," continued Martinez.

"When you are the left-back of this football club, and the level that he has been reaching over the last few years consistently, it shows me that he is the best left-back in the country.

"As a player, it's a very important year for him in terms of setting standards and trying to reach important things at the Club. And, in a World Cup year, we are really looking forward to seeing that real consistency of performances and making sure he can be himself, as he has been in the last few seasons.

"I can’t wait to start working with him.”

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  • Today, 12:36

    INJURY UPDATE: Baines to be assessed today ahead of #STOvEFC. Atsu to return to training on Friday.… #EFC

  • Today, 12:28

    RM: "I think Luke Garbutt showed against Arsenal the level of form he is at. We have a lot of quality and depth at left-back." #STOvEFC

  • Today, 12:27

    RM: It's been a learning curve for the demands of Europe and how they affect the league. It will really help our young players in the squad

  • Today, 12:25

    RM: "This game is a pivotal one. The final third of the season is here and we now have to treat each game as a final." #STOvEFC