Former Sunderland and West Brom striker Kevin Phillips feels Rafael Benitez has already hinted that he is looking to get rid of James Rodriguez this summer.
James, 30, has completed one season with the Toffees after joining as a free agent last summer. He penned a two-year deal with an option for a third while Carlo Ancelotti was at the Goodison Park helm. However, the Italian’s defection to Real Madrid has seen Benitez arrive to much controversy.
His connections to Liverpool mean there was always going to be unrest. But he has already spoken to the media to state he is ‘convinced’ Everton is the right move.
However, it was at that press conference that the former Newcastle United chief was asked about James. He refused to play ball, straight-batting questions about the Colombia international.
And, for Phillips, that is enough to suggest he does not have the South American in his long-term plans.
“It’s definitely a hint or a sign,” he told Football Insider. “He doesn’t want to comment on it and I understand that managers don’t want to sometimes.
“But that’s almost a way of saying ‘He’s there, come and get him’ without actually having to say those words.
“Managers always like to make a statement and I think that might be his way of saying it judging by the way he’s answered that question. From my experience, that suggests that the player will be made available.“
James never really ‘settled’ at Everton
The former Monaco winger made 21 starts among 23 Premier League appearances in 2020-2021. Injuries took their toll, with the 2014 World Cup star crocked on nine separate occasions.
There were also rumours that he was struggling to settle on Merseyside and has eyes on leaving after one season. Whether or not that is the case is open to debate but Benitez might make the decision for him.
It was suggested by the Daily Mail last month that his agent Jorge Mendes has been touting James to many clubs. He will not be short of suitors despite possibly not becoming the player his obvious talent suggested he would.
He bagged 37 goals from 125 appearances in all competitions for Real. And, on loan with Bayern Munich, the man from Cucuta notched 15 times from 67 outings.
He is about more than just goals, with pace to burn and skill in abundance. But it appears Benitez wants more from his stars as he looks to stamp his authority on the club.
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