Everton and James Rodriguez have a month to try and find a transfer solution that suits both parties.
Rodriguez has been informed that he doesn’t feature in Rafa Benitez’s plans this season and he is free to leave, should the right offer be tabled.
Last night, the Colombian said he did not know what the future held but, only, that he hoped to play at a club where he was “wanted”.
Under Carlo Ancelotti at Everton, he was. Under Benitez, less so.
The new Blues boss wants a squad of consistent players, who offer certain levels of energy and intensity on a weekly basis.
And as he tries to revamp the squad, Benitez is conscious of needing to get more bang for the club’s buck and making the Blues’ budget go further.
He believes that freeing the wage bill of Rodriguez’s salary would help significantly in that.
The Colombian playmaker was a free transfer signing from Real Madrid in September but his weekly wages have been described, by one source, as ‘Champions League winners money’ with it now believed he earns over £200,000-a-week.
James is the squad’s highest earner.
And while Benitez is in no doubt about Rodriguez’s ability and quality – he has said so publicly and privately – his fitness and injury record is a major concern and so, for the new manager, it comes down to a question of value.
Are Everton getting their money’s worth out of James? Or would the money be better spent elsewhere?
Ancelotti would often build his team around a fit Rodriguez and would ‘indulge’ him, especially defensively, but Benitez is more about the team as a whole and will not accept carrying players who are not pulling their weight when it comes to working off the ball.
It was well documented that James went through a number of games without having recorded any sprints last season but Ancelotti used to laugh off the issue and say the former Real Madrid man was not brought to Everton to defend.
A return of six goals and five assists in the Premier League, including a memorable strike against Leicester City at Goodison, was always the strong counter argument to question marks over his work-rate, as well as the way he often helped open up defences for others to prosper.
Rodriguez produced some dazzling displays last term but managed to only feature in 23 of Everton’s 38 league matches.
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The calf problem which dogged him all season saw him miss nine of the Blues’ last 14 matches as hopes of Europe faded.
Before Ancelotti quit for a return to Real in June, he said the club had devised a plan to keep Rodriguez fitter for longer next season but the playmaker’s injury record is one of a number of reasons why Benitez has told him he can leave.
But there is also an acceptance from within the club that the 29-year-old will not be easy to move on and there remain serious question marks about which clubs will come in for a player many fans don’t want to see leave the Everton.
There has been talk of interest from Spain, with Sevilla, and Italian giants AC Milan – Rodriguez spoke on Friday night about playing in Serie A – but it is seen as doubtful that any side would agree to pick up James’ wages in full.
And so a permanent deal, for a player entering the final 12 months of his contract, is seen as unlikely with a season-long loan – and percentage of his wages being paid – appearing to be the most probable outcome at this stage.
Rodriguez is aware he will need to leave the club in order to play regularly but believes he is training well and will be ready for the new season, if called upon by Benitez.
But the new Everton boss has made it clear to James that he is not in his plans.
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