Everton manager Roberto Martinez says there is “no train of thought” on a new contract for Leighton Baines -- even though the defender has less than two years to run on his current deal.
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Baines stayed on at Goodison Park despite being targeted by Manchester United during the summer, and Martinez indicated in early September that the England left-back would be rewarded with an improved contract.
Since then, there has been no movement towards a deal for the 28-year-old, who is committed to Everton until June 2015. That is despite the fact that Baines has continued to display the form that won him Everton’s players’ and fans’ player of the year awards last season.
Asked about a new deal for Baines, Martinez said: “There’s no train of thought on that at the moment. All that matters is that Leighton is enjoying his football. That’s the only thing I’m focusing on.”
The left-back proved an able deputy for Chelsea’s Ashley Cole as England won their final two World Cup qualifiers, against Montenegro and Poland, earlier this month to secure a place at next summer’s finals in Brazil.
And as Everton prepare to visit Aston Villa in the Premier League on Saturday, Martinez has hailed Baines’ performance levels.
The manager said: “He’s increasing all his personal stats. I think all his performance stats have improved from last season. That, for me, is very important -- someone of his age and maturity is starting to enjoy his football in a great manner.
“The fact that he’s developed his performance level as he has in the early weeks of the season is very significant. That’s what matters to me. Everything else is just a case of trying to find an issue from the outside and see what we will comment on.”
Meanwhile, Steven Pienaar could regain a starting place against Villa, having returned from more than a month out with a hamstring injury to come on as a substitute and score the winner in last Saturday’s 2-1 Premier League victory over Hull.
Fellow midfielder Darron Gibson had surgery on his ruptured cruciate knee ligament on Tuesday, with Martinez describing the operation as “really successful”, and will begin rehabilitation with the aim of returning before the end of the season.
Centre-back Antolin Alcaraz, meanwhile, could be in line to make an Everton debut in the derby against Liverpool on Nov. 23 – the first match after the next international break. Alcaraz, signed in the summer after being released by Wigan, has yet to play a competitive game for Everton because of hernia, groin and hamstring problems.
Martinez also revealed defender Johnny Heitinga is a doubt for Saturday.
“He has picked up a bit of a soft tissue problem in training, so he will be 50-50 for the weekend,” Martinez said.