Benitez stays poker-faced but key duo remain in Everton ‘plans’

Moise Kean; Richarlison TEAMtalk

Everton boss Rafael Benitez played his cards close to his chest when asked about the future of James Rodriguez and Moise Kean.

The pair have been linked with a Goodison Park exit all summer but remain at the club. Colombia international James has been mentioned in connection with Atletico Madrid. There was confusion earlier this week when he appeared to post a cryptic message about the Spanish club.

However, the former Real Madrid man soon put those rumours to bed. He did not play in the Merseysiders’ opening Premier League victory over Southampton.

The South American is still isolating and will miss Saturday’s trip to Elland Road to face Leeds United. Italy forward Kean spent last season on loan with Paris Saint-Germain.

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The 21-year-old has been linked with a summer switch to Inter Milan. He too missed the victory over Saints but is back in the squad for the West Yorkshire outing.

Benitez was asked about the duo at Friday’s press conference. And, toeing the club line, the Spaniard gave little away.

“Until the end of August, until the last day, the last minute, (there will be) a lot of speculation,” he said. “We have to keep working with the players that are here and available, and that is it, the only thing that I can say.”

And when asked specifically about James, he was equally as vague.

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“Until August 31, yes he’s in my plans,” he added.

Kean return confirmed

Kean made 29 Premier League appearances but only six starts in his first season with Everton. He was given the nod at Parc des Princes on 22 occasions last term, with 26 total Ligue 1 outings.

And the man with nine Italy caps responded in style. He bagged 13 league goals and 17 in all competitions, proving he is the real deal at the top level.

Now back wearing blue, he may play some part this weekend despite talk of a loan to the San Siro, per Tuttomercatoweb.

“Still we have some issues, but Moise Kean is the one that is coming back at the moment,” Benitez continued. “Until August 31 we have to be sure the players give everything, and then after that we will know exactly which is in our squad and then we will concentrate on that.

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“At the moment he has been training these days, he was OK, and he is another option we have up front, so I’m happy with the idea that he can give us a hand if it is necessary.”

Ben Godfrey, Andre Gomes, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Gylfi Sigurdsson were the others not in the squad for the Southampton game. They will not feature against Leeds.

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