Everton manager Rafael Benitez says that James Rodriguez still has something to offer the club if he can show his commitment and fitness.
The 30-year-old enjoyed a fantastic start to his Everton career at the beginning of last season. In fact, he scored three goals and assisted three others in his first five Premier League games. Since then, though, he has had little impact when he has played. Indeed, he has spent a lot of the time on the sidelines for various reasons.
During the summer transfer window, there was lots of talk over whether he would be staying at Goodison Park.
Everton were willing to shift his high wages and find a new signing. One report claimed that James almost made a move to Turkey, where the transfer window remained open until Wednesday.
Before that, though, the playmaker made the glaring admission that he did not know who Everton were playing.
James’ absence has continued so far this season, but Benitez has not completely ruled out his return for the Toffees.
“I think he realised he has to improve in a lot of things. He has to focus, he has to show his commitment. That’s what he’s trying to do and that is good for us,” the manager told reporters (via the Liverpool Echo).
“If he stays with us, it’s good news for us because he can give us something more. We don’t have any doubt about his quality, we have to be sure that we have players playing for 90 minutes with the intensity we’re looking for.
“Each player has his characteristics, and some games where he can be the difference.
“If James is staying with us, we need to find the right games for him, and he has to show his commitment and his desire. It’s something his teammates, fans and staff are expecting for him.
“If he can do that, he can make a contribution for the team.”
Colombian James spent the international break in Ibiza on holiday. However, he has since returned to training with his colleagues.
Benitez added that he must be careful not to rush James back before he is ready.
James Rodriguez has Everton potential
“He’s training with the team,” the Spaniard said.
“Obviously we have been talking about his future and we had some clubs interested. He still is here, he’s training with the rest of his teammates.
“Match fitness means that he has to play games, and he has to play games in a row. So, at the moment, I think that he’s a little bit behind the others.
“The team is doing well, the players understand what we want to do. He has to understand that.
“Then we have to try to bring the best from each player, in this case he has to adapt to the team and we will try to get the best from everyone.”
Everton face Burnley on Monday following two wins and a draw so far in the Premier League this season.