‘Nobody can argue’ – Benitez defiant over wantaway Everton forward’s struggles

Date published: Monday 26th July 2021 10:36 - Steve Pearson

James Rodriguez Richarlison Dominic Calvert-Lewin Everton TEAMtalk

Rafael Benitez refused to rule out the possibility of an exit-linked Everton forward staying after insisting the player’s quality is not up for debate.

Benitez’s appointment divided opinion among the Goodison faithful. The Spaniard is a proven winner with a CV boasting European trophies and league titles. However, his close connections with bitter rivals Liverpool has proved difficult for a portion of the fanbase to overlook.

Nevertheless, Benitez has the chance to prove the doubters wrong, and has already overseen a revamping of their forward line.

Andros Townsend and Demarai Gray both arrived in the wide areas with providing greater service to Dominic Calvert-Lewin an acknowledged priority.

That has put the status of Colombian playmaker James Rodriguez in question, with reports through July suggesting the 30-year-old’s time on Merseyside is drawing to a close.

Now, the Liverpool Echo have confirmed that speculation, stating: ‘it is understood Rodriguez has been told he can leave.’

Serie A pair AC Milan and Napoli, along with Atletico Madrid have all been credited with interest. But speaking after his side’s first pre-season friendly, Benitez hinted a stay is not out of the question when talking about the player’s progress in pre-season.

“At the beginning of the pre-season, it is not easy,” Benitez said after Rodriguez struggled versus Millonarios.

“I think you can see he has the quality on the ball. But still his fitness is not what we are expecting, so it is normal at this time.

“So we will see. Obviously, we have more training sessions and more games so we will see how he is going on and every player.

“It depends on them, if they can make a difference or not.

“But at the moment it is seeing how they progress and how they can improve. But nobody can argue about the quality of James.”

Mourinho joins Everton, West Ham transfer tussle

Meanwhile, West Ham and Everton have both made approaches for Barcelona centre-back Clement Lenglet, but it is another European side who have made the first move, according to reports.

Benitez was recently revealed to be an admirer of the French centre-back. Rumours of Everton’s interest in Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli always seemed to be over-ambitious, whereas Lenglet may be a more realistic target.

According to Diario Sport, not only Everton, but also West Ham have made an approach. They are both eyeing a deal on the same terms – a loan with an option to buy.

However, they will face competition from within Italy, because the same report claims Jose Mourinho’s Roma have made an offer. In the process, Lenglet’s Premier League suitors have learned his asking price.

Roma reportedly put €15m on the table for the ex-Sevilla man, but Barcelona rejected the offer. Instead, they are holding out for a fee of €25m if they are to part company with their number 15.

READ MORE: Winger’s Everton adventure over as new club announces signing

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