Leighton Baines says it has been an "honour" to represent Everton for 13 years and, in a direct message to Evertonians after announcing his retirement on Sunday, the left-back expressed his gratitude for the unstinting backing he's received from the Club's supporters.
Baines joined Everton from Wigan Athletic in summer 2007 and became one of Goodison Park's most popular and recognisable figures, playing 420 matches and scoring 39 goals.
He made his final appearance in Everton's closing game of 2019/20, against Bournemouth, coming on for Lucas Digne with 20 minutes remaining.
Baines was capped 30 times by England and is third in Everton's list of Premier League appearance makers after 348 top-flight games for the Club.
It is a measure of the 35-year-old's enduring quality and professionalism that manager Carlo Ancelotti made a concerted effort to keep him at Everton for at least one more season.
🔵 | Leighton Baines has announced his retirement from football.— Everton (@Everton) July 26, 2020
Thank you for everything, Leighton. 💙 pic.twitter.com/mhYYWiPHHB
I am incredibly proud to have represented Everton for the past 13 years and my decision to retire has been a difficult one to make.
After speaking to my family, I feel now is the right time to end my playing career but I do so with many great memories at this proud football club.
As someone from the city, Everton means so much to me and it has been an honour to be part of the Club for so long.
I would like to thank everyone who has supported me during my time at Everton, especially the fans who have been fantastic with me from the moment I signed.
Take care and thanks again,