The views in these blogs are those held by the individual blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of Everton Football Club.
Lewis Owen, 28th January 2014 - 15:49
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Such is his pleasant personality, one would not be hard-pressed to precipitate praise and words of positivity from Roberto Martinez.
But when the Spaniard offered the description of Leighton Baines as an ‘icon’ of Everton this week, he wasn’t producing an overstatement.
Indeed, given the news regarding Baines’ long-term future, and the confirmation of a new four-year contract, there was every right for Evertonians to share a smile as they made for work on Monday morning.
Since signing for the club from Wigan Athletic in August 2007, the 29-year-old has gone from strength to strength and established himself as the best left-back in the country, if not Europe.
Baines started life at Goodison Park in a lesser, bit-part role but his stock soon rose when Joleon Lescott departed for Manchester City in 2009. In he stepped, seizing the opportunity to nail down the left-back berth, and never has he looked back.
From last-ditch moments of quality at West Ham United, dead-ball piledrivers at Newcastle United or the sight of a trademark overlap - or even underlap - Baines has never failed to impress.
The stats make some reading. And Blues fans in particular won’t care to contest them - for those who have seen the defender in action, over the last 18 months at least, will vouch for every percentage and every number.
Let’s break it down.
Take the idea of Baines as the best crosser in the Premier League last season, managing a total of 241. That was 63 more than Gareth Bale, the world’s most expensive player, who delivered only 178 crosses.
Add that he has provided 33 assists - 14 more than any other defender in the league - since joining.
And include the European stats too. As of March of last year, he led the way with the best goal contribution of a full-back in Europe’s top five leagues.
He was voted in the PFA team of the year for a second successive season last year. And dependability? Not an issue either. Baines featured in every minute of Everton’s Premier League fixtures last season - the only outfield player to do so.
Here’s another idea. An icon, in theory, should lead the way: represent. Baines has never been shown a red card in his time as a Premier League footballer.
There will be more stats, more figures to revel in, within the grasp of the hordes of historians and databases available.
Yet, I suppose the real matter is concluded. Perplexing, maybe even worthless stats aside, Leighton Baines is a revered player, and an invaluable asset committed to the club.
That means more crosses, more assists, more freekicks, more penalties - more Baines.
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