About six months ago, when Wigan Athletic, under the stewardship of current Everton manager Roberto Martinez knocked Everton out of the F.A. Cup, I boldly stated in an article that Everton left back Leighton Baines was the best in the Premier League and that he deserved Champions League football.
I wasn’t to know that the longest serving (and most successful) manager in Premier League history was to retire and that then Everton manager David Moyes was to take his place.
I remember conversations with my father about who would take over at Manchester United. He touted Moyes, albeit after Sir Alex Ferguson had already made a clear statement about his first choice as successor. When, inevitably, my father was proved correct, the Scot, understandably, tried to lure the crown jewel of Everton football club with him to the Theatre of Dreams.
There has been talk that were this to happen, the current Everton man would leapfrog Ashley Cole as Roy Hodgson's first choice left-back, and become the England manager's first choice.
Of course, this isn't a slur against the England manager, but merely a reflection on the Everton man's lack of Champions League experience, that Ashley Cole has in abundance.
Were Baines to do what he does domestically on the European stage, Hodgson would have no choice but to choose Baines every time.
Every single transfer window there is some controversy about a player wanting to move from one club to another (for one reason or another, be it ambition, money or playing time), and to be fair to Baines his attitude during the paper talk was absolute professionalism.
He put his head down and played his heart out for Everton, to the point where, although I’m sure he would love to play for the current champions, you wouldn’t know that anyone had even been looking at him; this in stark contrast to the way that Joleon Lescott acted when he wanted to move to the other side of Manchester.
We all remember the summer of 2011 when Chelsea wanted Luka Modric from Tottenham. The player came out publicly claiming that he was promised he could leave, and this in turn failed as Modric eventually left White Hart Lane for the Santiago Bernabeu.
This summer Luis Suarez played that role, as he told the press he was promised he could leave when the Liverpool didn’t make the Champions League places – attempting to push a move for Arsenal, before dropping the subject very quickly. It’s been suggested that in January that Manchester United will come back for Leighton Baines as they look to secure a long-term replacement for Patrice Evra; and no one has suggested that Leighton Baines is unworthy of this attempt by the Manchester club.
Baines hasn’t spoken publicly about the offer to anyone, and Everton fans must be holding their breath to find out what will happen in the January transfer window, as no one could really blame him for moving to one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Which brings me to the point of this article: in humble my view, (assuming that Baines wants to go) the Everton man can learn one or two things from his former Merseyside rival Fernando Torres. Although there was some heartache when his move to Premier League rivals, Chelsea, was first mooted, Torres was handled well by his then manager Roy Hodgson.
He hadn’t been playing his best football, but one could still see that Torres did put effort into his game, his confidence was down but he still played his heart out – the two nil against the blues at Anfield when Torres got a brace and then defended like Baines does now comes to mind. He waited quietly until the transfer window was opened and then signed a new contract with a distinct release clause written in to the contract at £50million.
My point is that, as Everton line up a new contract for Leighton Baines, he could easily ask for a release clause. Torres did, and that worked out well for both parties.
Signing a new contract, with a release clause, means that Manchester United will have to pay a fair price for the defender. It also means that the Everton man, assuming he wants to go (which is by no means certain), can leave Goodison Park with a level of dignity, knowing he has done himself a favour (for his career) as well as done right by the club that nurtured him into the best left back in the Premier League, by giving them the financial compensation that will allow them to recover once he has gone.
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