By 90Min
April 11, 2018

It's not surprising to see Everton's rearguard look much more assured in recent weeks with the return to fitness of a key veteran trio.

Seamus Coleman, Phil Jagielka and Leighton Baines' return to the fold in the past month has only strengthened the Blues' backline - that Manchester City humbling aside - and has proven just how vital their experience and knowledge of the club has been.

It is the latter of that three who will hit the headlines in the next fortnight for a different reason, however, as Baines closes in on making his 400th appearance in a Toffees shirt.

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It's remarkable to think that the 33-year-old left-back has spent the past decade bombing up and down the flank for the Merseysiders, weighing in with crucial goals and assists, and leading by example on and off the field.

It's even more damning, though, that Everton are still yet to find a long-term replacement for Baines as he enters the twilight of his career at Goodison Park.

Fans won't need reminding that, during his three-month period on the sidelines with a calf injury, Cuco Martina was pressed into the unorthodox role of playing on the left side of defence.

That a right-back was asked to performed admirably in his stead underlined how criminal it was, that Everton didn't have suitable back up for Baines, was stark reminder that the ex-Wigan star won't be around for much longer - and he needs an able deputy to come in and take over from him as soon as possible.

Baines will be the first to play down his achievement of joining the ranks of Everton players who have amassed 400 appearances during his time at the club. Indeed, only 16 other stars in the club's history have chalked up that feat too.

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But it shows just how important he has been - and how vital it has been that Baines has stayed fit - during his 11-year Goodison career with no proper apprentice to take up his mantle when the time comes for the England international to hang up his boots.

It should a priority this summer to find a young, hungry and talented left-back who can step up to the plate and take over from Baines in the next couple of seasons, and there aren't any excuses for Everton not to go out and find one.

Failure to do so would be another huge misstep for the club's under-pressure recruitment team. It cannot be allowed to happen again.

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