Steven Pienaar eager to keep Leighton Baines at Everton

The South African who has returned to Merseyside from Tottenham man has expressed the hope that the Toffees can keep their talismanic full-back at Goodison Park for next season
Everton winger Steven Pienaar has pleaded with the club to resist Manchester United’s bids for team-mate Leighton Baines.

As exclusively revealed, United are ready to make a move for Baines but have set a £12m limit on signing a player whom Everton manager David Moyes regards as vital to his plans - so vital in fact that (as The Sweeper also exclusively revealed) Everton have privately placed a £17m price-tag on his head.

South Africa international Pienaar made a £4.5 million return to Goodison Park this week, just 18 months after moving away from the Merseyside club to Tottenham, and is anxious to see Baines stick with the Toffees.

Pienaar enjoyed a successful loan spell back at Everton in the second half of last season, and the 30-year-old is keen to continue where he left off in May.

The Johannesburg-born player is adamant that England left-back Baines should stay at the club for the Toffees' upcoming Premier League campaign in order for the pair to rekindle their potent partnership.

"Leighton texted me a few weeks ago asking me what was happening with me but I didn't ask him about his future,” Pienaar told The Guardian.

“I know he's had some great seasons at the club and, if he does get the opportunity to move, I think everyone will respect it. But for the club it's important to keep your best players and we all want him to stay and he knows it. It's not in our hands, though.

"It's not up to me. It's up to the club to keep their best players but hopefully he'll stay and so will the rest of the guys. It will be important for the team.

“We had a good understanding in the last couple of seasons so, if he stays, it will just make everyone happy as well because we know how important he is to the entire team.

“He can score goals from set-pieces and it's not just me who benefits from playing alongside him. He's a vital player for the club – everyone knows it from the manager to the supporters. Let's hope and see if we can hold on to him."

Pienaar’s permanent return to the Toffees is long overdue, according to the South African. His performances for the Merseyside club at the end of last season sealed the deal for the 30-year-old, convincing him that he wanted to play at Everton on a permanent basis again.

"I told the manager at the end of last season that I would come back if I had the opportunity and he promised me he would do whatever it takes to make it happen”.