Everton manager Roberto Martinez has challenged Leighton Baines to emulate the versatility of Bayern Munich captain Philipp Lahm.
Bayern and Germany skipper Lahm has spent the majority of his career playing either as a left or right back, but has thrived in a central midfield position since Pep Guardiola took over at the Allianz Arena last year.
Baines, meanwhile, is widely recognised as one of the best full-backs in the Premier League, and his consistent performances have seen him become a prominent member of the England national team.
The 29-year-old – who penned a new four-year deal at Goodison Park in January – accompanied Martinez to Old Trafford to witness Manchester United’s 1-1 draw with German and European champions Bayern in the UEFA Champions League on Wednesday, and was able to study Lahm in his new role.
Martinez is convinced that Baines has the intelligence and technical ability to follow in the 30-year-old Lahm’s footsteps by adapting his game to a new position in the future.
“I’ve always thought Leighton can develop into Philipp Lahm’s role, it is in his make-up,” the Spaniard said. “Not this season but in seasons to come he is someone who can play in that central role.
“I wanted him to watch Philipp Lahm in a live game because when it’s on TV you only see the player when he’s on the ball. It was good for Leighton to watch a player I feel he can be as good as or even better.
“Like Lahm, Leighton doesn’t give the ball away, he’s got a very low centre of gravity and technically he is as good as it gets.
“When you have that control of the ball and have been such a good defender, and as a left-back you have to be very good on one-on-one situations, it is very important to have that defensive mindset in those midfield areas.
“That is important for defensive balance. As a player Leighton has been through so many different experiences and has always found a way to rise to new challenges in his career.
“I am convinced he can step up to a new challenge. You need to look at the physicality and he is a naturally fit boy so can easily go into the role. He can be more expansive in central midfield than in his left-back role.
“That’s why I wanted him to see it first hand.”
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