Tony Hibbert will always have a role to play at Everton.
Those were the words of Roberto Martinez on Thursday morning after the Blues boss was asked about the future of the stalwart right-back.
Hibbert is fit again after injury and trying to force his way back into the Everton side.
A local paper claimed on Thursday morning that the 32-year-old Academy product was set to be offered a new deal and Martinez told evertontv: "It's one of those situations; at the end of the season, we'll sit down and we'll ask Tony how he feels and we'll take it from there.
"Tony is one of those unique players you have at a football club who represents the football club and what you do on a daily basis - someone who sets the standards and helps the youngsters.
"Tony has had such a terrific career that it is not the time to look into his future. Tony has earned the respect of our football club to, at the end of every season, sit down and, more importantly, [allow us to] ask him how he feels and what he wants to do. He will always have a role at Everton, always."
Martinez is acutely aware that the natural competitiveness within Hibbert means he will fight hard for a place now he's back fit.
He said: "It's all great for me to talk about the roles that he has, but he's a footballer, he wants to play and now he's fully fit he wants to get perfectly match fit - but then he needs to fight for his place.
"Now we've got six months of competition during which time Tony is going to look forward to trying to earn his spot back and making sure he's got a big role in the side as well."