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Jul 4, 2013

Martinez praises 'icon' Baines

Everton boss Roberto Martinez has hailed Leighton Baines as an icon of the club and insisted the full-back's head has not been turned by interest from Manchester United.

• O'Farrell: Wigan influx at Everton
• O'Farrell: Wigan influx>

One of David Moyes' first acts as United boss was to make a move for the defender he has transformed into one of the most consistent in the Premier League in recent years.

But Martinez has said he is relishing the chance to work with Baines after taking over at Goodison Park.

"I think Leighton is more than a player, he is an icon," Martinez told Everton TV. "He represents a lot about our football club and I am really, really excited about working with him. He is the best left-back in the country. He is a phenomenal performer and has become a very consistent player for Everton.

"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 went on to urge Baines to ignore the speculation over his future, suggesting the 28-year-old needs to retain his focus as the countdown begins to next summer's World Cup finals.

"As a player, it's a very important year for him in terms of setting standards and trying to reach important things at the club," he added. "In a World Cup year, we are really looking forward to seeing that real consistency of performances and making sure he can be himself, as he has been in the last few seasons."

Meanwhile, a source close to Manchester United has told ESPN that the Old Trafford club will make a fresh bid for Baines after their first offer of £12m was rejected last week, even though Martinez seems determined to talk up Everton's hopes of hanging on to their left-back.

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