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Benitez sets out clear plan but muddies water over Everton star

Everton manager Rafael Benitez played his cards close to his chest over the future of James Rodriguez but says he wants to turn Goodison Park into a fortress once again.

The Spaniard is now in charge of the Toffees after replacing Carlo Ancelotti in the hotseat. The Italian’s shock exit saw many names linked to the job and it was thought Benitez was an outsider due to his Liverpool connection. However, club bosses looked beyond that and handed the 61-year-old a three-year deal.

One of his first tasks was to try and shape a squad capable of bettering last season’s 10th-place finish. But summer recruitment has been slow, with only Demarai Gray purchased on a permanent deal.

Andros Townsend and Asmir Begovic have arrived on loan while the likes of Theo Walcott and Joshua King have left. James’ future has been the subject of much speculation.

The 30-year-old has been with the Merseysiders for just one season. He has been linked with an exit and recently poured doubt on his Blues future.

“I don’t know, I don’t know where I’m going to play,” he said on Twitch, via the Liverpool Echo. “You know that in football and in life you don’t know anything but all I know is that I’ve been training hard, preparing well, training for myself and that’s it.

“It’s complicated. Wherever I’m wanted. Someone has to be at a place they’re wanted.”

Speaking to the press ahead of the new season, Benitez did little to clarify the situation. The Colombia international is currently isolating with Covid and unavailable for Everton’s opener at home to Southampton on Saturday.

And Benitez hinted that decisions will soon be made on the South American’s future.

“I have had my conversation with him,” he told reporters. “He knows my idea but now he is not available so it is not an issue for tomorrow.

“We will try to find the best solution for us, for the club and for the player.”

Goodison key to Benitez strategy

The manager will have Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin available to face Saints. He hopes to make a positive stars to placate the naysayers who opposed his Goodison arrival.

And the former Newcastle, Real Madrid and Inter Milan chief set out his blueprint for Everton success.

“A winning mentality and to give everything on the pitch,” he added. “They used to do it. I have seen a lot of teams struggle to get points here so we have to try to do that.

“At the same time we have to play well. I used to have teams that play well and were well organised and don’t concede too many so we will try to do that.

“We have to agree the plan before the game and then put this into practice in all the games.”

READ MORE: Two sources confirm ambitious Everton transfer raid for star Napoli man



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