Over the last year Everton’s England left-back Leighton Baines has been linked heavily with a move to Manchester United. The rumoured price to secure his services has been about £17m. But should this deal happen?
Baines ever since becoming a first-team regular under Paul Jewell at Wigan Athletic in 2003 has improved year upon year. He wasn’t good enough for the Premier League critics said, then it was that he wouldn’t be good enough to play for David Moyes at Everton.
Baines has proved a lot of people wrong. There has been no fuss or controversy with this hard-working Merseysider who has let his football do the talking as he has firmly become England’s second-choice left-back behind Ashley Cole.
Under Moyes he has developed into a fine technical footballer first and foremost. As a left-back he is one of the best in the league and but for the outstanding form of Ashley Cole, he would have earned far more than only the 8 England caps he’s got.
He’s reliable at the back, doesn’t make mistakes and doesn’t appear to get flustered. What’s more he’s as big a threat going forward as are the likes of Cole and United’s current left-back Patrice Evra and has set up countless Everton attacks and goals down the years.
Fans can wax lyrical about his set-piece taking ability which have seen him score a number of penalties and free-kicks. When it comes to his free-kick’s he doesn’t just blast them in the style of say Roberto Carlos (which he can do by the way) but his trademark style of delicately whipping them in over the wall to seemingly the only part of the goal the goalkeeper can’t get to.
In recent years conceding a free-kick against Everton within shooting distance has been as bad as conceding a penalty as top teams such as Spurs and Chelsea have so devastatingly found out. And when the free-kicks don’t go in Baines has a knack of either going close or forcing the goalkeeper into dealing with the ball, which should be the aim of every free-kick that is struck towards goal.
For the critics out there who are being critical of Baines, saying that a rumoured £17m is far too much to pay for a left-back who isn’t in Jordi Alba’s league, here’s some thought for them to hold onto:
Who in 2010/11 set up 11 league goals, the 5th most in the league?
Who was voted by the PFA as their left-back in the league last season?
Both answers to those questions are Leighton Baines. Unlike Alba he may not be a big-name but Baines brings heart, dedication, professionalism and a temperament that suits the Premier League. Yes if he does join United, he will have to up his game and there may be a learning period for him as he sits on the bench behind Evra.
In the long-run he appears to be an excellent choice to succeed the Frenchman (who could well be entering his final year at Old Trafford) as the club’s first-choice left-back and he will only improve by playing more on the big-occasion alongside better players. Give him time and this lad has all the tools to shine.
By Adam Dennehey @ADennehey87