Everton boss Roberto Martinez has emphasised there is every chance veteran midfielder Leon Osman will remain with the club even beyond the end of his new deal.
The Toffees announced on Thursday that Osman had agreed a one-year extension to his current contract, taking him through to the summer of 2016.
The 33-year-old Everton academy product subsequently celebrated the news later that day by rifling home his side’s opening goal in the 3-0 Europa League victory over Lille at Goodison Park.
Martinez has described Osman as a “special figure” for the Merseysiders and expressed his hope the two-cap England international can continue to prove he is worth retaining for “many years to come”.
Speaking ahead of Sunday’s Barclays Premier League trip to Sunderland, Martinez said of Osman: “You don’t get many footballers like Leon.
“You don’t get so many players celebrating testimonials in the modern game.
“And then you look at the way he is enjoying his football, the way he is efficient and effective in games, and the way he took his goal on Thursday – I think that is him, if you want to have a snapshot of what he brings in a game.
“He has great composure, arrives into the box and shows real style and quality to score the goal.
“The extra year is a reward he deserves, and now he is not waiting until the end of the season.
“But signing the reward of a year’s deal doesn’t mean you are going to retire at the end of that contract.
“The club is moving forward and we have a policy that any player over 30 has to prove their fitness so that we are up to speed year by year.
“And I hope Leon Osman is fully fit for many, many years to come and can write many other pages of history with Everton.
“He is very close to 400 appearances, and is a special figure for us.”
Thursday’s result means Everton will head into Sunday’s contest having kept four clean sheets in their last five matches in all competitions.
That is some turnaround from the start of the season, when they conceded 13 goals in their opening five league games.
Martinez feels Everton, for the performances they have delivered, should really be higher in the table than ninth, where they start the weekend.
And he is delighted the team have found some solidity at the back as they look to move up the standings.
Asked if he felt the Toffees were in a false position in the Premier League, the Spaniard said: “We are – but then also, you are in the table where you deserve to be.
“Early on, defensively some of the aspects of our play cost us a few points, and that is what the table shows.
“But now we have conceded one goal in five games and I think we are looking really solid as a side.”
Everton midfielder Gareth Barry and full-back Seamus Coleman will undergo fitness tests ahead of the encounter with Sunderland, who start the weekend 15th.
Barry has an ankle problem which he suffered in Thursday’s game, while Coleman was absent from the squad for that match after suffering a cut to his Achilles tendon in last Saturday’s 0-0 league draw with Swansea.
Kevin Mirallas (hamstring), Bryan Oviedo, Arouna Kone (both match fitness), Antolin Alcaraz (shoulder) and John Stones (ankle) remain unavailable for first-team selection.