Ronald Koeman has hailed Leighton Baines as one of the best attacking full-backs of his generation after he celebrated another major career milestone.
The Blues’ left-back became the first Premier League defender to contribute 50 assists when he set up Romelu Lukaku’s goal in the 3-1 victory over Burnley last weekend.
Baines’ latest assist further underlined his value to Everton at both ends of the pitch, and prompted Koeman to admit he is a fully paid-up member of the 32-year-old’s fan club.
Speaking ahead of this weekend’s clash with West Ham United, the Blues boss said: “Maybe Leighton is a bit overlooked compared to other players in the team because he’s that type of defender. But he’s clever, he has lots of experience and maybe he’s one of the best in terms of passing football.
“He shows that quality every week and that’s why he is one of my favourite players.
“He never loses a ball when we do ball possession exercises.
“In his football I think he’s one of the best and it’s really great to have that type of player in your team.”
Signed from Wigan Athletic in August 2007, Baines has become one of the mainstays of the Blues’ defence over the last decade, clocking up 369 appearances in all competitions.
As well as providing a Premier League record 50 assists, the attack-minded full back has also weighed in with 35 goals, 27 of which have come in the league, making him one of English football’s most prolific and consistent defenders.