EVERTON FC left-back Leighton Baines has hailed Steven Pienaar as the best footballer he has played alongside – and revealed spending the last year trying to lure the South African back to Goodison Park.
Barely 12 months after leaving, Pienaar made a sensational return to Everton FC last week on loan until the end of the season from Tottenham Hotspur.
The 29-year-old was thrust into an immediate ‘second’ debut during the 1-1 Premier League draw at Wigan Athletic on Saturday, where he was reunited with Baines down EFC’s left flank.
And Baines admits it was second nature linking up with Pienaar once again.
“It is nice to have him back,” said the England left-back. “We didn't take any time to get back into that familiar pattern because he is just a good player. He is a pleasure to work with.
“I have been texting him since the day he left to see if he was coming back, not just deadline day. I have been texting him all the time, trying to get him back.
“I am made up to have him. He makes a massive difference to us. When he trained for the first time on Friday, he changed training. That shows how good a player he is.
“Just his ability to take the ball in any situation, he never loses the ball and the worst case is he wins you a foul if he is struggling. He is such an intelligent player.”
Pienaar’s start was his first in the Premier League since May, but he lasted the full 90 minutes and Baines added: “He is probably the best player I have ever played with because he is so selfless as well.
“The shift he has put in after not playing very often and training once is unbelievable. He gives everything.
“He does all the work you would want him to do and more. Sometimes he was over on the right and trying to make things happen.
“When it breaks down he is not the type to take his rest there, he will get back and help out as well.”