Richard Dunne has hailed the "incredible" character of "leader" Seamus Coleman - as he backed his fellow Irishman to continue showing he is better than ever by playing a crucial role for both Club and country.
Coleman made a welcome return to the Everton side on January 31 after more than 10 months out with a broken leg and showed he had lost none of his qualities, playing an integral role for the remainder of the 2017/18 season.
In the 12 games that the right-back started, the Toffees lost just three times, with Coleman once again winning plaudits for settling back into the side so quickly with typical energetic and tenacious performances.
As a former Republic of Ireland teammate of Coleman's, Dunne has not been surprised to see the 29-year-old follow up on his vow to return "better and stronger than ever" from his injury.
And the Everton Academy graduate is confident the 2009 signing from Sligo Rovers will remain a key player whether he is wearing the royal blue of Everton or emerald green of Ireland.
“I have not been surprised at all by Seamus' form, only the way he reached such a high level of performance almost immediately,” Dunne told evertonfc.com. “I know how difficult it is to get back up to speed after being out for a long time.
“It was such a horrible injury and you imagined it would be a really long road back for him but he got on with it and put everything he had into his recovery and getting back to being exactly the same player he was before. When you watch him, you would never know he had been away.
“He is a really forceful and competitive player. To come back like he has - perhaps even stronger than before – is incredible and a measure of his determination and character.
“He is going to be vital for Ireland in our next qualifying campaign. People are more optimistic about Ireland when Seamus is in the team.
“He has had a terrific impact on his club side as well. Everton are a better team with him in it.
“It is extremely rare to see a player so influential from right-back. Seamus drives the team on from that position. He is probably helped in that respect by his background as a wide player in Ireland.
“He looks to dominate his side of the pitch. He is a very good defender but also excellent going forward.
“He is always aiming to push his opponents back and is incisive. He wants to take people on and create chances and score goals. He is always very calm on the ball and makes good decisions in possession."
Dunne played alongside Coleman in defence when the Blues favourite made his international bow in the 3-0 win over Wales in February 2011 under Giovanni Trappatoni.
A former Everton defender – he made 72 appearances for the Club after graduating through the Academy to make his debut in January 1997 against Swindon Town – Dunne recalls a "quiet and reserved" Coleman back then but believes the Irish skipper is now his nation's most important player.
“I remember he was quite quiet and reserved when he first came into the Ireland dressing room but he became louder and more of a leader as he became more established," added the BT Sport pundit. "You could see he was a good player and as his confidence grew that became more obvious.
“The team now revolves around him. He is Ireland's most important player and probably our most dangerous player as well. He is the leader, a big figure in the dressing room and really popular with the supporters.
“Seamus was still a big supporter of the team while he was out injured. He was at the final World Cup play-off match when we lost to Denmark but we really missed his energy and quality on the pitch. Things might have been slightly different if he had been able to play."