The Everton manager, Roberto Martinez, wants to tie Leighton Baines to the club with a new contract after they fended off interest from Manchester United in the summer transfer window.
Former manager David Moyes wanted to take the England left-back and midfielder Marouane Fellaini to Old Trafford with him, but only succeeded in landing the latter. Baines was interested in a move to United but Everton rejected a number of bids for the left-back and want him to put the matter to rest by signing a new deal.
“Leighton is the most important player for us now and in the future,” said the Everton manager. “We want to do what we can to reward that and let him know he deserves our appreciation.
“Contract talks will be opened but it is not just about the contract, it is about making sure he knows how much we want him and how much we appreciate him.”
Despite the loss of Fellaini – and that of striker Victor Anichebe to West Bromwich Albion – Martinez believes his squad emerged from the transfer window stronger, with the arrivals of midfielders James McCarthy and Gareth Barry from Wigan and Manchester City respectively, and Chelsea striker Romelu Lukaku.
The last two are at Goodison Park on loan, but Martinez thinks those last-day signings, plus the quartet of Arouna Kone, Antolin Alcaraz, Joel Robles and on-loan Barcelona youngster Gerard Deulofeu, who arrived soon after he himself joined from Wigan, have given Everton a range of good options.
“In football you always want to keep the best performers, but [Fellaini] leaves with our best wishes,” said Martinez, who would not confirm whether the Belgian had handed in a last-minute transfer request prior to his £27.5m move – £4m more than his recently expired buy-out clause.
“There was a lot of talk [in the summer] but there was never a case of having to make a decision on it because the contractual situation with Marouane was straightforward. His buy-out clause expired on 31 July and his valuation completely differed. But when you lose a player you have to end up in better shape and that is what we have achieved.
“The squad ended up stronger and in a very good position.”