London – Everton manager Roberto Martinez labelled Leighton Baines “world class” after the left back scored twice to help his side maintain an unbeaten start to the Premier League season with a 3-2 win at West Ham on Saturday.
Baines seemed likely to join Manchester United during the close season but Everton managed to hold on to the 28-year-old England international, much to the delight of Martinez.
“Baines is world class, he is as good as it gets. He has a natural talent. We needed something special and Leighton provided it,” said the Spaniard whose side are now among the leading pack with nine points from five games.
Baines twice equalised with free kicks after Ravel Morrison and Mark Noble, who was later sent off, gave West Ham the lead.
“For the first one my mind was made up by the keeper's starting position – he was quite central – so I mixed it up,” Baines said in a post-match interview.
“For the second one, the keeper had to take an extra yard to cover that side so I decided to go the other way. It was a great feeling to get that, especially because of the position of the game.
“Before the game (Everton midfielder) Leon Osman said he'd taken me out of his fantasy team because I'd not scored enough goals, so I put that right today.”
Everton debutant Romelu Lukaku snatched all three points by heading the winner five minutes from time and his performance as a halftime substitute, convinced Martinez of the 20-year-old Belgium striker's potential to be a “special” player at Goodison Park following his season-long loan move from Chelsea.
Baines agreed, saying: “His pace and power frightened them. When he got the ball at his feet they retreated. He's really exciting to train with and will be a great asset this season.”
Martinez, who has also signed Gareth Barry on loan from Manchester City and James McCarthy on a permanent deal from Wigna to offset the loss of Marouane Fellaini to Manchester United, believes his squad is developing a winning mentality.
“The result reflects the effort of the whole football club, keeping the best players and also being able to bring in players with the experience and youth that we have. It gives you a great opportunity and I think we have the perfect blend,” he said. – Reuters