Roberto Martínez has described Leighton Baines' decision to sign a four-year contract at Everton as a mark of confidence in the club's Champions League prospects. He could be without 11 first-team players when trying to enhance those top four claims at Liverpool on Tuesday, however.
Baines has drawn a line under Manchester United's pursuit of the England international by committing his future to Goodison Park until 2018. The 29-year-old had only 17 months remaining on his deal and talks on an extension had dragged from last summer amid David Moyes' interest in a reunion with the left-back at Old Trafford.
Martínez announced the agreement to give Everton a pre-Merseyside derby lift following the loss of Bryan Oviedo to a broken leg in the FA Cup win at Stevenage on Saturday. The Everton manager is facing a severe injury crisis at Anfield, particularly in defence, but believes the Champions League potential of his team was instrumental in convincing Baines to stay.
"As a manager, you want players who want to play Champions League, we don't just want a group of players who are happy to play in the league, so for Leighton to commit himself to Everton and give us the best years of his career is very significant in that respect," Martínez said. "It's a massive boost to the fans but internally it's even more important because everyone who wants to play with Leighton knows we're all going to need to step up to try to achieve the targets that other clubs could offer him.
"I feel Leighton understands that, as a club, we're ready to kick on and challenge for big things. You look at the points tally and it'll give you a clear indication that we're not far off and that makes it something worth committing to. I think Leighton is a very intelligent man but he's also an old-fashioned footballer who wants to be loyal. He doesn't get moved around by the new trend in football; he wants to be the best he can and play in the best competitions but if he can do that with Everton he feels a lot stronger and those values are needed in the game. They are certainly very important to us."
Oviedo underwent surgery on a double fracture of his left leg on Monday yet Martínez claimed the World Cup remains a target for the Costa Rica international. "There is a broad timescale on his recovery but it could be five to six months depending on how the operation goes and whether there are any complications," Martínez said. "I think Bryan could make it in less than that and it would be an incredible boost for Bryan to make the World Cup. If not, he will be back with us for pre-season."
Oviedo joined Darron Gibson and Arouna Koné as long-term absences, while Phil Jagielka, Sylvain Distin, Seamus Coleman, Antolín Alcaraz, Steven Pienaar and Ross Barkley are doubtful for the 222nd Merseyside derby. Gerard Deulofeu is out until Saturday and the new loan signing Lacina Traoré will only be considered for the bench at Anfield providing he has fully recovered from a recent hamstring injury.
Jagielka, the Everton captain, had a scan on his hamstring problem on Monday and Martínez said: "Phil is the one that concerns me the most because he played at the weekend and his injury is fresh. The others we always expected it would be difficult for them to make the derby so if we get any positive news it will be a bonus. We could maybe give Ross an injection (in a broken toe) but what we can't afford is to lose him for a longer period. The Merseyside derby is a really important game but if you give me the opportunity to fight for the next nine points or just three points in a derby, the answer is clear."
Martínez will not block John Heitinga's proposed departure despite Everton's injury problems. The Holland international has received offers from clubs in Italy and Turkey, understood to be Roma and Galatasaray, and will be allowed to leave to improve his World Cup prospects.