Carlo Ancelotti says he wants veteran defender Leighton Baines to sign a new contract at Goodison Park.
The 35-year-old is a free agent at the end of the season but his recent performances suggest he is far from a faded force.
The former Wigan defender has started Everton’s last two matches in the absence of the injured Lucas Digne and looked like he had never been out of the side.
He has made six appearances in total this campaign, scoring once, a spectacular last-minute equaliser in the Carabao Cup against Leicester in December.
| This goal deserved more than what happened next...— Everton (@Everton) December 19, 2019
Leighton Baines. Still got it. pic.twitter.com/epTkT1u6ur
Ancelotti has certainly been impressed with Baines’ performances and indicated he is hopeful of keeping him at the club for another year.
He told official site:
“Our idea, the idea of the club, is, ‘Don’t stop playing, stay with us for the next year. We would like to keep him and are going to talk with him. It would be good for us if he can stay.
“Physically, he has no problem. It [Baines remaining beyond this season] depends on what he is thinking and whether he wants to continue. I think he wants to continue but it is his decision.”
Ancelotti was in charge of AC Milan when consummate defensive duo Alessandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini played beyond their 40th birthdays.
The Italian cited his compatriots’ physical conditioning as key to their respective longevity.
And he sees the same attribute in Baines, who has been capped 30 times by England and scored 39 goals for Everton.
Baines will top Everton’s list of Premier League appearance makers with a further 10 outings. He is seven behind Leon Osman’s tally of 352 and two more adrift of the total amassed by goalkeeper Tim Howard.
“He has experience and even if he does not play frequently he is able to come in and manage the game. He is strong physically and a really intelligent player.
“He played well in both games [against Arsenal and United] and helped the team.
“Maldini only stopped playing because eventually he had physical problems, he could have played more [in terms of ability]. Maldini won a Champions League when he was nearly 40 – so Leighton has time to win the Champions League.”
Despite his impressive recent performances, Baines may well find himself back on the bench this weekend as Digne is back in training after a muscle strain.
However, it is comforting to know that if the Frenchman is not quite 100% ready to return, we have a more than able deputy ready to step in if needed.