Baines: Martinez made me want to stay
Leighton Baines has credited manager Roberto Martinez with playing a huge part in persuading him to stay at Everton.
The England left-back was the subject of three bids from Manchester United last summer, and his future remained uncertain even after those offers failed.
But he ended speculation about his future by signing a contract on Jan. 27 that commits him to Everton until 2018.
And he said that the coaching methods introduced by Martinez have both rejuvenated the club’s players and made them believe they can compete successfully in Europe next season if they qualify.
Everton are fifth in the Premier League going into the weekend’s fixtures, and if they finished there, they would go into next season’s Europa League.
They could also qualify for that competition by winning the FA Cup, and are only two points off the fourth Champions League spot, currently occupied by neighbours Liverpool.
Baines told Everton’s website: “It’s still a work in progress at times. Every time we get comfortable in certain aspects, the manager will introduce something else. We’re slowly improving as a team.
“You enjoy it if you enjoy thinking about football. We’ve got a lot of players doing their coaching badges so it’s interesting for them. I enjoy figuring things out and solving problems -- just trying to get on the same page as the manager and his staff.
“It comes naturally. I watch games differently from how I did as a teenager. You’re watching a game but from a tactical point of view. You see what someone is doing and how the other team is combating that to get their advantage.
“This is the style that probably all the top teams in Europe play. If we qualify for Europe, then our style automatically fits to Europe and we don’t have to adapt.”
Baines is keen to help end Everton’s 19-year wait for a trophy, stretching back to the 1995 FA Cup, which they won by beating Manchester United 1-0 at Wembley.
He said: “The aim is getting back into Europe now. For us it’s a major goal. The cup competitions too -- it’d be huge to bring that sort of success back to the club. As players, you want to pit your wits against the top sides on the continent. We’ve got from now to the end of the season to give everything we’ve got to get there.”
Baines added that he was relieved to have put aside the doubts about his long-term future by signing a new contract.
He said: “It was great to commit to the club and out everything else to bed.”