LEIGHTON BAINES believes Everton have saved themselves millions of pounds by handing Sylvain Distin a new contract. The Blues left-back says finding an adequate replacement for the French defender would likely have cost the club a lot of money.
Distin has put pen to paper on a 12-month contract extension which ties him to Goodison Park until the end of next season.
Baines has labelled the 35-year-old as one of the most dependable centre-halves in the Premier League and was delighted to see Distin agree to fresh terms.
“For what he gives the team, it would be very difficult to find someone else with that defensive reliability and his pace and power,” said Baines.
“It would probably cost the club a lot of money to go out and get someone like that as well.
“It is great news for us and hopefully Sylvain is happy as well.”
A professional player for over a decade, Distin continues to perform at the highest level.
Baines says the secret of the former Manchester City man’s longevity is his dedication in training and lifestyle away from the club.
Fittingly, Everton’s full-back was discussing Distin’s staying power with the ECHO at an event to champion the virtues of healthy eating and exercise to a group of Liverpool schoolchildren.
Though now seen as a mentor, Baines admits he looked for guidance in his earlier days with Everton.
The 28-year-old has been taught how to deal with the aches and pains that come with his trade, specifically a minor ankle complaint.
“You learn from all the lads,” he said.
“You’ll look to the good professionals and my first experience of that was when Joleon Lescott was at the club.
“I’d never really seen anyone dedicate themselves to it as much as he did and he took me under his wing. I just latched onto him and learnt from him.
“He moved on and there are still those good professionals in the team, like Sylvain, but I’m a senior professional myself now so I don’t need to look to anyone at this stage. I’ve been doing it for long enough.
“I’ll probably be managing my ankle for two or three years.
“It is not a big problem, just something that comes with the wear and tear of playing football.”
Springwood Heath Primary in Garston was paid a special visit by the England man yesterday as Baines helped them produce healthy menus fit for a professional footballer.
The pupils of class 5M asked the Everton star about his pre-match meal, as well as what his favourite fruit and vegetables are.
Sales of bananas and broccoli are certain to rocket in the area.
“Schools play a massive part in encouraging children to keep active and have a healthy diet and I’m happy to support this and hopefully make a difference,” Baines said.
Baines told the Year Five students that he sits down for food around three-and-a-half hours before kick-off on match-days.
The England man will repeat the routine ahead of the FA Cup fourth round tie at Bolton Wanderers tomorrow.
Baines believes Bolton, relegated from the Premier League last season, will want to show they can still compete with the top level sides but he says Everton are hungry for another Cup run this season.
“They have got a bit of a point to prove I guess, with having gone down,” Baines said.
“Against a Premier League side they’ll want to show they are capable and still performing at that level. It will be a tough game.
“We’ve had a mixed bag in terms of results when we’ve gone there over the years but, and I know it’s a cliche, it is always different with a Cup tie. It’s that one off game and it’s not always about the performance, it’s about the result and getting through to the next round.
“Whatever happens we have got to find a way of getting in the hat.”
He added: “It’s always been an important competition for us and we’ve had some decent runs in the last couple of years.
“The importance of it was underlined when we went to Cheltenham and didn’t make any changes and were probably as strong as we could’ve been that night.
“It is all about getting through and the manager will select the strongest side available to him.”