Everton manager Roberto Martinez has labelled defender Leighton Baines as an ‘icon' as he attempts to fend off Manchester United from making a move for the left-back.
The club rejected a £12m offer from United last week, but it is widely expected that former Everton boss David Moyes will return with an improved offer for the England international.
The Toffees have stressed that Baines is not for sale at any price, and they are hopeful that he will sign an extension to the two years he has left with the club.
And Martinez, who took over at the helm following Moyes’ switch to Old Trafford, has underlined the 28-year-old’s importance to the club.
"I think Leighton is more than a player, he is an icon," he told the Liverpool Echo.
"He represents a lot about our football club and I am really, really excited about Leighton. This is a big season for him and for us as a club.
"When you are the left-back of this football club, and the level that he has been reaching over the last few years consistently, it shows me that he is the best left-back in the country.
"I can't wait to start working with him."
Martinez will be meeting with his players for the first time today as they report back for pre-season training, having made the switch from Wigan following their FA Cup triumph and relegation disappointment.
The Spaniard is believed to be tapping into the services of his former club as he attempts to complete deals for both Arouna Kone and Antolin Alcaraz from the Latics.
The deal for Kone could cost Everton around £6.5m, but Alcaraz will join on a free transfer once his contract is negotiated.