Leighton Baines

Leighton Baines
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Leighton Baines

Current Club: Everton.
Previous Club: Wigan Athletic.
Loan Clubs: N/A.

International: England 30 caps 1 goal.

Baines is one of those players I have always felt was slightly unlucky in international football. To have your main opponent for the spot in an England team be arguably the best player in the world in that position is not something that happens very often to an Englishman! However Baines has had to play second fiddle to Ashley Cole for a long time, which is why it is a minor miracle that he has managed to reach 30 caps. In almost any other era, he would probably have at least double that number of caps, maybe more.

Full backs usually come in two different types, the attacking fullback (or wingback) who charges forward at every opportunity but is weak defensively or the defensive old style fullback who are more comfortable supporting attacks rather than being the main focus of it. Much rarer are the fullbacks that are good in the attack and good defensively, and getting rarer by the season. Baines comes into that latter category, as an attacker his delivery from wide areas is excellent, though he is not so marauding as some, however he can also defend and is very rarely taken to the cleaners by an opposing wide player.

At his peak, Baines was able to get up and down the pitch to be a major attacking threat, while still, despite not being as quick as some, willing to chase back and recover when possession is turned over. Recent years has seen injuries rob him of some of his mobility though and there has been a noticeable dip over the last couple of years in his willingness to charge forward and hit a cross into the box. Some of that was down to a change in style of play for the team, but he does show some signs of a player realising he is no longer up to covering the ground he once did and adjusting his game accordingly.

One advantage Baines did have over Cole was his ability from set pieces, where is a specialist left foot option for any set pieces. His ability from a dead ball situation makes him a real danger to the opposition, which probably goes a long way to explaining how he has managed to score 30 goals and get 56 assists in his Premier League career from 384 games. If he had more pace, allowing him to get tighter to opponents and cut out more of their crosses, as well as to get back more quickly, Baines might well have been on a par with Cole, due to the deadball ability he possesses.