Beni Baningime has vowed to keep working hard to achieve his ‘dream’ of playing for Everton’s first team after signing a new two-and-a-half-year deal with the Club.
The 19-year-old midfielder was an instrumental figure for Everton Under-23s as they won last season’s Premier League 2 title, having only made his full debut for David Unsworth’s side on the final day of the previous campaign.
Unsworth has been glowing in his praise for the teenager and Baningime was rewarded for his terrific form at the start of this season by being invited to train with Ronald Koeman’s first team.
After penning a new deal until June 2020, the young Blues’ ball-winning midfielder is aiming to become the next Academy talent to be called on by the Dutchman.
“I am very, very happy – thrilled to sign the contract,” Baningime told evertontv. “I have been working so hard for this and I am just glad David Unsworth and his staff have given me this opportunity.
“My ambition is to make the first team but I will have to see what happens. That is my dream, to play in Everton’s first team. It has been ever since I came here.
“My progress has been fantastic. And it is all down to the coaching staff. Everything about my game, they have helped me with it all and I am extremely grateful.
“I speak to Tom (Davies) and Jonjoe Kenny and they really want to do well, which inspires you to want to do it as well. So, hopefully, it will happen for me.
“They are both great talents - but it is the hard work and how they conduct themselves which is really good.”
Unsworth says the “consistently outstanding” and “humble” Baningime fully merits his new contract.
And the Under-23 boss is now challenging his 19-year-old charge to “kick on” to the next stage of his development.
“We are delighted,” said the former Blues defender. “Beni has been brilliant through a period of time for us since he came through the ranks with the Under-18s.
"He was great last year when we won the league. He was a consistently-outstanding performer and we are all just delighted.
“He is a terrific lad, very, very humble - and desperate to be an Everton footballer. And he is on the right path to doing that.
“I cannot speak highly enough of him. He is brilliant to work with. When you have a humble lad, who has talent and is desperate to learn and take on information, he is a pleasure to manage.
“He has the ingredients to be a top player. We just have to take it step by step. We think very highly of him and that has been shown with the offer of a new contract."
Baningime moved to England from DR Congo aged eight and was quickly snapped up by Everton’s Academy.
He captained the Toffees’ Under-18 team to Dallas Cup success in March 2016 and, five weeks later, was handed his first Everton Under-21 outing by Unsworth in a 0-0 draw at Chelsea.
“We just have to plot the next couple of stages of his career now, which we do with every player,” said Unsworth.
“But we will be looking for Beni to kick on now. In the next 12-18 months we would hope he will get some minutes in the Football League - potentially with a loan move to the right club at the right time to further his development and continue his progression.”