Pienaar Praises 'Unbelievable' Baines

by Peter Lennox
@Everton

Steven Pienaar has described former Everton teammate Leighton Baines as “unbelievable”, insisting the left-back’s impressive performance against Lincoln City on Saturday was testament to his professionalism and unrelenting desire.

Saturday’s FA Cup clash at Goodison represented Baines’ first appearance since 2 October, with the consistently excellent displays of summer signing Lucas Digne forcing the England international to wait for his opportunity.

Baines seamlessly stepped into Everton’s backline against Lincoln, however, showcasing his defensive nous while providing a key attacking outlet for the Blues.

It was Baines’ pinpoint cross that set up Ademola Lookman for Everton’s opener in the 2-1 victory, and he continued to provide a stream of accurate deliveries throughout the 90 minutes as he regularly embarked on enterprising runs into the final third.

Pienaar - whose near telepathic link-up play with Baines thrilled Evertonians during his two spells with the Club - believes the 34-year-old’s application on the training pitch was key to being able to turn in such an accomplished performance.

“I watched the game and sometimes, if players haven’t played for a long time, they can lose a little sharpness - but Baines just fits in like always,” said Pienaar, Everton’s International Ambassador.

“The way he played was unbelievable for someone who hasn’t played for so long.

“Leighton is so professional and he’ll just be turning up every day and working hard, like he always has.

“At the start of the season, he was in the team but then Lucas came in and started playing extremely well - you can’t complain if a player is doing so well.

“But I’m just happy to see Leighton back on the field again and I think he can push Lucas all the way for the spot."

BainesPienaar

France international Digne arrived at Everton from Barcelona this summer with significant pedigree.

As well as spending two seasons with the Catalan giants, he had previous spells at Serie A team Roma, and with Paris St Germain and Lille in his homeland.

The 25-year-old has swiftly adapted to life in the Premier League, with his eye-catching Toffees form suitably impressing France boss Didier Deschamps, who has named Digne in his past two Les Bleus squads.

Pienaar is convinced scrapping for a spot in the Everton starting XI with a player of Baines’ calibre has served to elevate Digne’s performances.

“Lucas’s mission now is to keeping playing at the top of his game,” said Pienaar, who scored 24 goals in 229 games for the Blues.

“He knows Baines is ready to step in again. It’s good to have competition, and for the team in general to keep the players sharp, so they can perform every week.

“Lucas has played for very, very big clubs like Barcelona, he knows how to deal with the pressure. They are similar types of player – both strong in defence and going forward - and also with set pieces and scoring goals.

“It’s just a plus for the Club to have two players of that quality fighting for one position.”


Baines is in the midst of his 12th season as an Everton player, having signed from Wigan Athletic in 2006. His appearance in the Cup victory over Lincoln was his 409th for the Club – only 15 players in Everton’s history have turned out more times for the Toffees.

Pienaar believes this experience is invaluable for the Blues, highlighting Baines’ status as a role model off the pitch, as well as his quality on the field of play.

“Knowing Leighton, he’s always helping the younger players and I’m sure he’s helping Lucas as well as English football is a bit different compared to the Spanish league,” he said.

“He has got a big voice in the dressing room.

“It’s good to have senior players in the team and having a player like Leighton is good for all the young players coming through.”




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