Baines started his career in the third tier with Wigan and helped them to two promotions before establishing himself in the top flight and then making a £6million move to Everton in 2007.
He’s been a regular for the Toffees ever since, winning 30 England caps in the process and becoming quite possibly the coolest footballer in the Premier League.
Baines has won Everton’s Player’s Player of the Season award three times and Player of the Season award twice, while being named in the PFA Team of the Year on a further two occasions.
His attacking prowess always catches the eye – he created more chances in 2012-13 than any other player in Europe’s top five leagues and in 2016-17 became the first defender to register 50 assists in the Premier League – but he is as equally reliable in defence.
The fact Bayern Munich and Manchester United are both known to have tried to sign Baines speaks volumes of the left-back’s class – and also his loyalty to the Toffees.
Whether it be Roberto Carlos, John Arne Riise or Ian Harte, left-backs scoring free-kicks just gives us a nice, fuzzy feeling – and Baines is up there with the best of them.
There are the two free-kicks at West Ham which he placed either side of Jussi Jaaskelainen, or the 119th-minute effort at Stamford Bridge to salvage an FA Cup tie against Chelsea, or the outrageous thunderbastard against Newcastle at St James’ Park, all scored with effortless ease.
John Terry and David Unsworth are the only defenders to score more Premier League goals than Baines, and they’re nowhere near as cool as the Everton man, are they?
This is where Baines really comes into his own.
The 32-year-old used to pen a music blog on Everton’s official website in which he waxed lyrical about the likes of Tame Impala, Jack White, Lana Del Rey and The XX – without getting all Joey Barton and quoting Morrissey – while in 2017 he showed his eclectic taste by praising Kendrick Lemar and Franck Ocean in an interview with SoccerBible.
Just as a comparison, here’s what England’s Under-21s were listening to this summer…
— England (@England) June 15, 2017
Because how many other footballers hang out with Arctic Monkeys, Miles Kane and members of Gorillaz?
Whenever England travel to a major tournament there is always plenty of coverage on what the players get up to in their spare time, often cooped up in a hotel or training base.
Rather than pass the hours playing Playstation or staring at a wall, Baines decided to teach himself how to play guitar at the 2014 World Cup, leading to plenty of excellent photos of him stepping off planes donned in a full tracksuit with his acoustic slung over his back like a roadie for a mid-90s indie band.
Considering the amount of attention footballers get, Baines tends to stay away from the limelight, extending to the fact he won’t be found on social media.
When asked whether he will remain in football post-retirement, Baines told the Daily Mail: “I hope not. As much as I love it – the reason I don’t watch or read about it now is because I am giving everything I can to it – any bits of time that are my own, I come away from it.
“So when I finish, I think I will get that passion back as I won’t be involved in it. I reckon I would go back as a fan, but I’d like to do something else. I just want to try a different world, with different people, different experiences.”
David Batty would be proud. And we all know he was a rock star too.
In some ways it’s a shame Baines won’t be found on social media. Given his passion for photography, he would probably be decent value on Instagram.
The Liverpudlian insists the stereotype of a modern footballer is unfair, but even so he still does not exactly fit the mould, taking bus trips into his home city to scout out areas to take pictures.
“I am older so I am not bothered about how I am perceived,” he told the Daily Mail last year.
We think you’re cool as f*ck, Leighton, whether you like it or not.
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