Manchester United Transfer News: Leighton Baines Contract Delay Offers Hope

Christopher Atkins@@chris_elasticoContributor IDecember 22, 2013

Manchester United have been given hope in their long-standing pursuit of Everton defender Leighton Baines with the revelation that Everton are yet to begin contract discussions with the England international.

Per Mirror Football, Toffees boss Roberto Martinez revealed that progress is yet to be made on a new deal, with just 18 months remaining on the player's current contract:

However, the report also suggests that the Merseyside club will not budge on their asking price for the left-back:

Roberto Martinez has revealed talks have yet to begin over a new deal for Leighton Baines.

But the Everton boss has told Manchester United to forget about Baines unless they are going to really splash the cash.

The Spaniard insists the defender is not for sale but could discuss selling their prized left-back in January if United meet their valuation of the England international.

With a price quoted in excess of £20 million, Baines will not come cheap. However, as doubts over Patrice Evra's future in Manchester grow, a first-team left-back is an increasingly important priority.

Per the Express' Ben Jefferson in October, Evra's contract expires at the end of the season and there is yet to be any suggestion of a renewal being in the cards.

Indeed, as reports of interest in Baines and Porto's Alex Sandro, per Metro's Daniel Jones, continue to grow, it would appear the club's priority is already upon securing a replacement.

The Brazilian would be the long-term option, with a decade potentially ahead of him at the top of the game at just 22 years old. Baines, though, is an established Premier League full-back who has long been among the division's best in his position.

With David Moyes fully aware of the former Wigan man's abilities from their time together at Everton and the player fully aware of the United manager's expectations, he is undoubtedly the safer option.

However, a fee in excess of £20 million is a lot for a 29-year-old full-back, regardless of performance level and nationality. As the clock ticks on his contract, though, the pressure to reduce that valuation grows by the day.

With each passing month, United's bargaining position grows stronger and Everton's hold of Baines, in turn, weaker. For Moyes, any deal would be a major boost after a slow start to life in the transfer market as Red Devils boss.

The reigning champions may choose to look elsewhere, with financial considerations and long-term thinking perhaps pushing the club toward alternative options.

Any drop in Baines' value at Everton, though, would propel him back to the forefront of Moyes' thinking as he plans the next stage of United's development.

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