Marco Silva says “fantastic footballer” Leighton Baines is a “really important” member of his Everton squad.
Full-back Baines was in sublime touch when he returned to Everton’s starting XI against Lincoln City last week, the 34-year-old’s energetic display belying the fact he was playing for the first time in three months.
Baines’ outing in the FA Cup tie represented his 409th appearance for the Club. And Silva insists the pedigree defender – along with 36-year-old centre-half Phil Jagielka – is a valuable influence in Everton’s young dressing room.
He also expects Baines to keep snapping at the heels of Lucas Digne, with the international duo engaged in a healthy rivalry for Everton’s left-back spot.
“Leighton is a fantastic professional, a very, very good football player,” Silva told evertontv.
“I didn’t need that match [against Lincoln] to see how Leighton Baines keeps being a really important player for me as a manager.
“Even if he started the season playing… then Lucas Digne had the chance and is doing very well, Leighton is always fighting to take this position again.
“He is demanding, I know how important he is.
“I am on the touchline every match, so normally I don’t pay attention to what happens behind me.
“But my staff are there and they are always telling me how he is demanding [from the players on the pitch], how he is helping everyone.
“He is a fantastic football player, a very good professional and it is fantastic for us as a club and me as a manager when you can have both Lucas Digne and Leighton Baines available to play at left-back.”
Baines started Everton’s opening three Premier League games of the campaign and captained the side against Bournemouth – who visit Goodison Park for the return fixture on Sunday.
Frenchman Digne came in for the home match against Huddersfield Town back in September and has received the nod ever since.
Silva, though, agreed with the assertion of Steven Pienaar, Baines’ former partner in crime down Everton’s left flank who told evertonfc.com this week that the senior man’s presence would push Digne to even greater heights.
The Everton boss also underlined the importance of being able to rely on English pair Baines and Jagielka – who boast a combined 70 national team appearances – to consistently maintain their intensity on the training ground.
“They are our captains: Jags is our captain and Leighton and Seamus are our second captains,” said Silva.
“They are really important for us as a club and me as a manager.
“After, you can talk about my technical decision.
“But how they are important for me and for us as a club: no doubts about that.
“Always 100 per cent professional. Always 100 per cent demanding.
“Always helping everyone to achieve what we want as a club, if they play every match or not.
“And it is everything you expect from players like Jagielka and Leighton Baines… players with this big importance in the Club.
“It will be a very good fight [between Baines and Digne] until the end of the season.
“And it is very good for us when you can have these two solutions, always able to play.”
Silva attended his first Everton General Meeting during the week and agreed the evening represented an ideal chance to meet supporters and discover more about the Club.
“It is a good opportunity… when you can talk with some of them about, for us [people inside football], normal things,” he added.
“For some of them it is not normal things, they can ask things they don’t normally have the opportunity to ask the manager.
"It was good. It showed in some moments the ambition of our club also. It was very important.”