Everton full-back Leighton Baines believes his decision to spurn Manchester United’s interest last summer has been vindicated by the direction the club is currently heading under Roberto Martinez’s leadership.
Baines, along with Marouane Fellaini, was the subject of multiple United bids before the start of last season, following David Moyes’ switch to Manchester, but only the Belgian ended up making the move to Old Trafford.
Signing a new-four year deal at Goodison Park in January, before helping the Toffees to a 5th-place Premier League finish, the England international feels that the club’s ability to keep hold of its up-and-coming talent is already paying dividends and sees success coming in the near future.
‘What the club has done lately is retain its best players,’ he told the Liverpool Echo.
‘Everyone here who has been linked with someone has stayed and committed to the club. The younger lads; Ross [Barkley], [John] Stonesy, Seamus [Coleman] have all been linked with clubs and they’ve all got their best football ahead of them, but they’re all happy to do it here. That’s as big as anything for me.
‘The manager was telling me that’s what he wanted to do when I signed my contract.
‘I signed following that summer of the whole United thing, but that was in their minds back then in terms of how to change the status and perception so we can keep hold of players when other clubs come calling.
‘Since that with me, a few of the other lads have been talked about as going by the media but in all fairness none of them have been the slightest bit interested in playing anywhere else. You hear that from them. They are enjoying it here and they want to achieve what they can here.’
Baines also points to Everton’s recent record signing of Romelu Lukaku as a sign of the club’s intent, believing his £28 million capture to be a big statement to the rest of the league.
‘It was a big statement,’ he said. ‘Rom was linked to loads of clubs and I think the Chelsea fans would have liked to have him back there as well. So it was a brilliant signing for us.
‘Everyone is back now and I think the gaffer will be working on another couple of things he wants to do, but it’s great to have Rom back and Gaz [Barry] as well.’
Now bidding to compete with Louis van Gaal’s side for a Champions League spot, Baines admits that he was tempted at the prospect of lining up for United but insists that he has no regrets, even though the decision was somewhat out of his hands.
‘The main decision wasn’t really mine with United. It was further down the line when I signed a contract,’ he stressed.
‘There’s two ways of looking at it, I could have just signed in the summer and it would have all nipped it in the bud straight away but it played out.
‘Then I could have let it drag out and run into my last year then but I didn’t want to do that. Everything felt right and I wouldn’t have signed it if I wasn’t happy.
‘I’ve got great relationships here and there’s a real sense of ambition with the manager. He’s not just happy to do what we did last year; which in another season could have got us in the Champions League. He wants better than that. It’s all moving in the right direction.’