Baines still adapting to back-up role but vows to keep working for opportunities

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Leighton Baines admits he is still adjusting to his back-up role to Lucas Digne at Everton (Peter Byrne/PA)

Everton defender Leighton Baines admits he is still adapting to the role of back-up to Lucas Digne but he intends to continue to push the Frenchman for his place.

The veteran left-back made just eight appearances last season as the £18million signing from Barcelona quickly established himself as Marco Silva’s first choice.

It has not stopped Baines signing a new one-year contract and he has pledged to keep Digne honest by providing him with competition – even if watching from the bench after 12 seasons as a regular is an oddity for the 34-year-old.

“It is a new challenge for me in terms of the fact I have not played as much football as I have been used to,” he said.

“But I have also not lost sight of the fact I have been very lucky to play the amount of football I have during my career. I appreciate what I have had and will keep working for whatever I can get.

“I take my responsibilities seriously. And whether I am in the starting XI or not, I am going to do the same things day in, day out, in case I am called upon.

“But working under the manager and in those new circumstances has been good. It is never completely smooth sailing and you never expect it to be in a job like this.”

Baines is third on Everton’s list of all-time Premier League appearances with 340 but on last season’s evidence he is unlikely to surpass former goalkeeper Tim Howard’s record of 354.

Nevertheless, the work manager Silva did in his first season at the club – and also that of director of football Marcel Brands – has persuaded the former England international it is worth staying on at Goodison Park.

“It was always in my mind to stay because of talks I’ve had with the manager and Marcel,” he added.

“I have had numerous conversations with Marcel and I spent more time with him and got to know more about him towards the back end of last season and during the off-season.

“And I became more and more impressed with him from having that one-on-one time and understanding his vision and the direction he’s trying to take the club.

“That gives you more optimism about where the club is headed.”

Midfielder Nikola Vlasic has completed his move to CSKA Moscow, where he spent last season on loan and scored eight times in 31 matches.

The Russian club prematurely announced on Wednesday the 21-year-old had signed a five-year contract, for a reported £14million, but Everton would not confirm a deal until all the paperwork had been signed off.

Vlasic was the last signing of former manager Ronald Koeman in August 2017, joining in a £10million deal from Hajduk Split just a week after facing Everton in a Europa League qualifier.

He made 19 appearances in his only season for the Toffees.

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