Everton defender Sylvain Distin says the return to fitness of midfielder Jack Rodwell is a huge boost ahead of the new Premier League season.
Rodwell spent the latter half of last season blighted by hamstring trouble, but is now fully fit and scored in the Toffees' 4-1 friendly win over Morecambe on Saturday.
With the combative youngster now back in David Moyes’ first-team plans, the midfield options at Goodison once again look strong with Marouane Fellaini, Tim Cahill, Leon Osman, Darron Gibson and Rodwell all battling it out for a starting berth.
Everton have only added ex-Rangers man Steven Naismith so far this summer, but the return of Rodwell to the fold is being treated like a new arrival by Distin.
“Having Jack back is like a new signing,” the Frenchman told the club's official website. “When you miss someone for that long and then get them back it is the equivalent of signing a new player.
“Fingers crossed he can now stay injury free and we will have him for the whole season.
“I have seen him in pre-season and seen all the work he has done and he is looking strong.”
Distin also reserved praise for youngster Francisco Junior, who joined the club on a free transfer in February after spells with Benfica and Manchester City and shone in the friendly win over the Shrimps.
“The fans might not have seen much of him but we train together every day and see him every day,” the 34-year-old added.
“I personally know and feel he has enough quality to play. As you saw [against Morecambe] he loves to get the ball and go forward and dribble past players. He is sharp, has good technique and I think we will see more of him this season.
“We don’t have a big squad so any young guys like that who can come and compete for a place in the team is good for us.”