Sep 6 2013
Everton manager Roberto Martinez wants to reward Leighton Baines' loyalty with a new contract after the club fended off interest from Manchester United in the summer transfer window.
Former Toffees boss David Moyes wanted to take the England left-back and midfielder Marouane Fellaini to Old Trafford with him, but only succeeded in buying the latter.
While the Belgium international had regularly hinted at looking for a new club over the last 12 months, Baines has been a model professional and Martinez believes that deserves recognition.
"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, to a lesser extent, Victor Anichebe to West Brom - 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 latter two are 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 Deulofleu who arrived soon after he joined from Wigan earlier in the summer, have left the club in a strong position.
"In football you always want to keep the best performers, but he (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 £27.5million move - £4million 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 July 31 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."