Everton manager Roberto Martinez has revealed that England left-back Leighton Baines has been taken to a secret location “for his own safety”.
The former Wigan boss stated that the mounting transfer speculation surrounding the player, had led the club to take the highly unusual measure of gagging and blindfolding him, before being whisked off to a undisclosed safe house.
He said: “As you’ll no doubt be aware, many claims have been levelled against Leighton and his possible future here at Everton.
“After digesting reports suggesting that he was wanted by a ‘former boss’ started to surface in the media, we thought it best that we put the player in hiding.”
Baines, capped seventeen times by England, has been strongly linked with a move away to Manchester United.
However, Spaniard Martinez claims that Everton are acting in the player’s best interests in temporarily removing him from public gaze.
He said: “Whenever such rumours start to circulate, you know that it isn’t going to end well.
“We’ve all seen in the past that clubs such as Manchester United can be highly ruthless when it comes to securing the outcome they want.
“Other smaller clubs have found themselves in a position such as this, what starts out as gossip starts to escalate; before you know it, the guys with greater resources and financial muscle target their man, and then pull the trigger.”
He added: “We need to take care of the boy.”