Detached and intangible, James Rodriguez was a fleeting part of Everton history and, perhaps, the last spasm of excess from a regime that seems to have put itself on a more pragmatic footing
It was months in the making but just like that, it was over. Everton’s painfully brief dalliance with Europe’s elite — or rather, a couple of its fading lights — came to an end as James Rodriguez’s departure from the club for the footballing backwater that is Qatar was confirmed today. The Colombian follows out of Goodison Park Carlo Ancelotti, the man who brought him to England in what was seen as something of a coup 12 months ago but which now feels a little frivolous and impulsive, particularly given the fact that the Italian is no longer around.
For a few heady weeks last autumn, it felt as though the Blues were finally making good on all those years of promise under Farhad Moshiri. Around half a billion pounds of expenditure on a mixed bag of players under a succession of managers had failed to bear fruit but now, with one of the game’s most decorated managers in charge and Colombia’s finest export in the side, a tilt at the Champions League suddenly felt realistic.
Tottenham, West Brom, Crystal Palace, West Ham (in the Carabao Cup) and Brighton were conquered as James pulled the strings, scored his first three goals in Everton Blue and generally looked like the midfield maestro the Toffees have been crying out for for years; the most gifted — potentially most important — signing since Andrei Kanchelskis.
Then came the Merseyside derby. A clattering to the nether regions by Virgil van Dijk at the start of the game meant that Rodriguez wasn’t the same for weeks and neither were Everton for a good while thereafter. The emotional fallout of the media hysteria at Jordan Pickford’s involvement in the Dutch defender’s season being ended prematurely was compounded by the loss Richarlison due to a three-game suspension and the club's excellent start to the season evaporated.
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Whatever injury he had sustained against Liverpool, it kept James out of the defeat at Newcastle on the 1st of November last year after he had toiled through a miserable Blues performance at Southampton the week before and by December, he appeared to have succumbed to the recurring calf problem that has blighted him since 2018 and wrecked his World Cup in Russia that year.
He returned in the New Year to an Everton side who were on the back side of what had been a remarkable ascent to second place in the Premier League on Boxing Day. He scored a lovely goal against Leicester at the end of January, grabbed another vital strike at Old Trafford that helped haul Everton back to a 3-3 draw against Manchester United and laid on the goal for Richarlison that effectively secured the club’s first win at Anfield for 22 years.
But another four successive games out through injury and then just one appearance in Everton’s final six games underlined just how unreliable a presence Rodriguez had become in the Everton team. His last competitive game for the Blues was in a horrible home defeat to Sheffield United; some comedown from that uplifting debut at Spurs on the opening day when so much seemed possible.
Ancelotti scuttling back to Real Madrid at the end of last season appeared to signal an automatic end to James’s time at Everton even though he still had another year to go on his two-year contract. Rodriguez made no secret of the fact the had signed because of Ancelotti, the man who took him to the Bernabeu from Monaco in 2014 and who brought him to the Bundesliga on loan with Bayern Munich two seasons later.
But as the summer wore on and there were no takers, it seemed increasingly possible that there might be a place for James at Everton after all. There was, however, the not-insignificant issue of Ancelotti’s replacement, Rafael Benitez, with whom the Colombian had worked briefly at Madrid and not all that cordially by most accounts.
It’s here that the whole James Rodriguez situation gets very murky, even more opaque than his salary which went from £70,000-a-week based on Marca’s reporting in September last year to £200,000-a-week according to the English press this summer. (The 30-year-old had gone from astute free-transfer acquisition who took a pay-cut to play in the Premier League to easily the highest-paid player in Everton’s history and, therefore, a financial millstone around the neck of a club that had racked up unprecedented losses over the preceding few seasons under owner Farhad Moshiri.)
Was Benitez prepared to accommodate Rodriguez in his plans? The drumbeat in the media over the summer was that the Spaniard didn’t see how he could fit into the system. Was James ever close enough to full fitness to actually play after he had been kept away from the first-team squad in nominal “Covid 19” isolation while the English transfer window was still open?
Did the player actually want to still play for Everton? It was assumed that his desire to stay evaporated when Ancelotti left – some say it was before even that and that he hadn't settled in England – but there were few outward suggestions from James himself that he actively wanted to leave. At one stage he simply said he wanted to play where he was wanted. Did that allude to Benitez casting him aside or was there pressure from within the club to offload him because of how much he was costing the club while he wasn’t playing?
There is no question that if he was on as high a wage as the UK media have been saying then James was a ludicrously expensive asset given how unreliable he is in terms of fitness. In that respect, if he wasn’t going to play, he had to leave (unless he was prepared to take a huge pay-cut) but, having resigned himself to staying after the Premier League transfer deadline at the end of last month, to what extent was he determined to get match fit? And if he could get back to those levels, would Benitez play him?
Again, there is no way of knowing what is true and what was spin from various people involved but if Evertonians were looking for signs from James that he was either desperate to stay and play for the Toffees or that he had any genuine affection for the club at all, they were left wanting. Beyond putting his kids in Everton gear for Instagram photos or dropping “Up the Toffees” into his games on Call of Duty on Twitch, it’s not clear this was ever more than another stop on his career path.
Covid-19 protocols notwithstanding, not once did he attend a game when he was sidelined by injury to support his team-mates. He ambled through pre-season as if he had nothing invested and when the rest of the squad was being presented with the Florida Cup after the win over Millonarios, Rodriguez was at the other end of the pitch with supporters from his home country. And his decision to leave England on a private jet for Colombia before the 2020-21 season had even ended still sticks in the craw to this day, an indelible image of a mercenary footballer doing as he pleased rather one with his club’s fans or the "optics" of togetherness uppermost in mind.
In short, James never felt like a part of the club; he was an ephemeral presence who sprinkled some stardust on a few matches, made a big impact in some of the games he actually played, earned some vital points along the way but ultimately leaves amid a cloud of frustration and disappointment.
Perhaps it was always destined to be that way. Incredibly, he departs having never played a single match in front of supporters who were yearning to touch his heart. Every game in which he was involved was played in empty stadia; away from the match, he remained secluded in his Formby home, one of his very few interactions with supporters coming on the beach this summer.
Detached and intangible, James Rodriguez was a fleeting part of Everton history and, perhaps, the last spasm of excess for now from a regime that seems to have finally put itself on a more pragmatic footing. As empty as it leaves many Blues fans feeling, the removal of the distraction is at least another step on the road towards stability.
Reader Comments (62)
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2 Posted 22/09/2021 at 21:40:03
3 Posted 22/09/2021 at 21:40:24
A real shame us fans having never got to witness his talent live, especially in those first couple of months when he was flying and there was a massive buzz in the air.
But the facts are he was an ageing ex-superstar who made his name off special moments rather than being a consistent top-level performer in a career which has been plagued by injuries.
Add to the fact that Premier League football is being played faster and with more intensity than ever before for him to be an influence throughout the 90 minutes, week-in & week-out, was too big of an ask.
4 Posted 22/09/2021 at 21:53:48
From my perspective I'm still a little disappointed I didn't get to see him live in a blue shirt. We haven't had too many world class players at Goodison since the heady days of the mid to late eighties. Andre Kanchelskis and Peter Beardsley are the only ones who came close.
From the club's perspective, James had clearly become a noose round our necks, with respect to Profit & Loss rules. Therefore, probably for the best.
5 Posted 22/09/2021 at 22:12:53
6 Posted 22/09/2021 at 22:27:46
Both switched off at that point and our season fell apart after so much promise, accompanied by Ancelotti explaining "He was not a magician".
And then another "nearly" moment in our recent history was blown again.
7 Posted 22/09/2021 at 22:29:59
The last time I felt the same frustration about absences, was when Louis Saha seemed a regular absentee. For no good reason as it seemed at the time
Some players seem to need to feel 100% before every match. Kewell was similar for that lot!
8 Posted 22/09/2021 at 23:11:23
9 Posted 23/09/2021 at 01:08:44
Really good article, Lyndon.
Another good one here in The Guradian:
James Rodríguez and Everton was always a beautiful doomed marriage
10 Posted 23/09/2021 at 01:33:11
If we were to tally up Blame vs Responsibility, there are many who have a proportion of Blame coupled with some Responsibility... from Kenwright, right through all the usual suspects, upto and including the recent dearly departed.
But when we tally up Responsibility vs Blame – there is only one winner: Moshiri.
You'd best deliver that new stadium, me laddo!
11 Posted 23/09/2021 at 04:02:42
12 Posted 23/09/2021 at 05:44:10
He left a few great memories – I can't help feeling that, if he'd played in a full stadium, he'd have "got" the club and things would have been different.
Still... time to move on.
13 Posted 23/09/2021 at 06:05:05
The magicians – for me, there have been three at Everton in my time: Alex Young, Duncan McKenzie and briefly Rodriguez – need to feel valued and cherished.
There were times when Catterick seemed to despair of Young and his blisters, Gordon Lee was not McKenzie's number one fan and seemingly Benitez would prefer anyone to Rodriguez.
One understands how pragmatic managers who want effort and commitment prefer more journeyman performers, but God these magicians light up a stadium.
I'm sad that Rodriguez didn't take to living in England, that he didn't feel sufficiently needed at Everton, and I suppose this is the sensible ending, but I just wish...
14 Posted 23/09/2021 at 06:51:02
15 Posted 23/09/2021 at 07:47:59
I'm sorry to see him go but, if Benitez isn't going to use him, then it's best we get those wages off the books. He has certainly contributed a lot more in his short time here than Fabian Delph.
16 Posted 23/09/2021 at 08:14:34
Despite enjoying his input to the important win at Anfield and a few other quality moments I'm afraid that I found his attitude towards our club insulting. A spoilt brat.
Also, those fans who think that, once he played at Goodison with supporters in the ground, that his attitude would have changed, are kidding themselves.
This is a very selfish man who has failed to live up to early promise. Apart from a calf problem, I think he has lacked the determination and drive to capitalise on his natural ability.
The fact that he is willing to play in Qatar and no other European club was willing to pay his wages says just how he is regarded in football circles.
17 Posted 23/09/2021 at 08:26:25
18 Posted 23/09/2021 at 08:55:13
19 Posted 23/09/2021 at 09:10:09
20 Posted 23/09/2021 at 09:11:59
James was a good player but was injured a lot of the time he was with us.
21 Posted 23/09/2021 at 09:21:05
But the writing was on the wall with Ancelotti going (he was never the same after that break-in). He was a waning star, but at least he was ours... for a brief moment.
22 Posted 23/09/2021 at 09:29:30
I'm in the “glad he's gone” camp but I must admit the summary you've given of his highlights did sway me a little.
Ultimately though, and this is one point you omitted, his “I'm not sure who we're playing this weekend” is the type of stuff that reaffirms my overall view that I'm glad he's gone, regardless of where the blame lies.
Onwards and upwards.
23 Posted 23/09/2021 at 10:47:03
This spoilt brat mercenary isn't fit to lace their boots.
Glad to see the back of him.
Shows how far we've fallen over the years when average players are being held up against some of our best ever talents.
24 Posted 23/09/2021 at 10:53:17
The fact that the only move that materialised for him this summer is to a side in Qatar suggests that those brief flickers of real quality last season were the dying embers of a strange career.
I just hope that we are in some kind of position next year – as other players run or hobble down their contracts – to address the lack of squad depth.
The last two results were not really wake-up calls... more a sad reminder of what we've seen all too often. We also look worryingly short of creative players now, particularly if Digne is ruled out for the weekend. Maybe Gordon can push on...
25 Posted 23/09/2021 at 11:29:51
I think he has made a lot of money on his World Cup appearance in 2014, seven years ago, but has never consistently produced that form since, just now and again when he seemed to be bothered.
One was the derby at Anfield when he had a very good game while he was on the field. This game was shown to a worldwide audience on TV, why couldn't he produce this type of performance more often?
I'll be kind and say “His body wasn't fit enough”. For some, what he produced was plenty, even fleetingly; for others, we wanted more than just fleetingly. Each to his own opinion.
26 Posted 23/09/2021 at 11:35:15
When you label Rodriguez as an average player, what do make of the rest of the current team?
How many players have you seen in a blue shirt that have been more talented than this average player?
27 Posted 23/09/2021 at 11:36:56
28 Posted 23/09/2021 at 11:46:45
29 Posted 23/09/2021 at 12:23:31
It occurs to me more than previously, what an emotionally hollow experience it has been for players to perform in empty stadiums.
No attempt at any kind of excuse, but for the few/any like Rodriguez arriving and leaving in such an environment, there was never going to be any real connecting feel to a club; matches being more like an extrapolation of training.
This said, it was obvious in his early golden period, that James appeared very happy and bonded in the team, loved to play, loved to score.
A regrettable ending.
30 Posted 23/09/2021 at 12:40:29
31 Posted 23/09/2021 at 14:23:23
32 Posted 23/09/2021 at 14:47:05
Average players don't win World Cup golden boots or play for Bayern Munich and Real Madrid.
I loved his no-look passes. I'm gutted we couldn't make it work; good luck to the lad.
33 Posted 23/09/2021 at 14:52:42
If he was anything more than average, I'm sure he wouldn't be currently plying his trade in the football hotbed of Qatar.
Having watched many, many players wear the blue shirt since 1979, it would take me all day to list those who I would deem to be more talented than this mercenary.
What do I make of the current squad? It genuinely staggers me that over half a billion pounds has been spent in recent years and we have a squad that is a billion miles away from the Top 4. It's one of the poorest squads I can recall, not just in terms of technical ability, but the heart and desire to fight for results.
I can't think of one player that I have any affection for, which is sad really.
34 Posted 23/09/2021 at 14:54:34
36 Posted 23/09/2021 at 16:02:51
Hopefully he'll bring some quality in January now. Not as good as James though. Classy footballer on his day. Too big, perhaps for our small club...
37 Posted 23/09/2021 at 16:52:30
38 Posted 23/09/2021 at 17:05:59
Probably knows that himself, as he is off to a third-rate league where his abilities will shine.
39 Posted 23/09/2021 at 17:32:41
Up until the Goodison derby, they were great times with James pulling the strings. One of the best players I've seen in our shirt outside of the 80s title-winning teams. Up there with Rooney and Kanchelskis for me as genuine top-notch players.
He didn't track back but you don't buy a Ferrari to go off-roading. We bemoaned a lack of creativity for years. Sad how it all panned out but the hope petering out encapsulates being an Evertonian.
40 Posted 23/09/2021 at 17:43:10
41 Posted 23/09/2021 at 18:12:40
As for the argument about class players at Everton, it is a great pity the younger members of TW never saw Alex Young at his best.
42 Posted 23/09/2021 at 18:27:49
James Rodriguez is a player who, in my opinion, lovers of football should appreciate. On his game, he is the sort of player that time stands still for, such is the excellence of his touch, technique and vision to see and make a play lesser players are not capable of.
That said, I've equally seen him cough up easy possession and misplace short 5-yard passes that badly exposed Everton defensively which, if it had been someone like Tom Davies, would have had the wrath of TW crashing down on his head.
He is also a player who increasingly in his career is unavailable to play as he struggles with injuries. He clearly keeps himself in good nick – photos of him in the last year show him looking well ripped. But evidently he carries injuries the camera cannot reveal.
Things were going well up until mid-December last year. He missed just one game of our first 14 Premier League and League Cup fixtures through injury (rested in two early League Cup games), scoring 3 goals and making 4 assists.
He then missed 5 consecutive games over a busy December fixture list. Had a good run of games in January and February featuring in 7 of our 9 games. But from March onwards in 14 Premier League fixtures – more than a third of the season, plus the FA Cup tie vs Man City – he played just 5 more games.
Then we have the question of his salary. Widely reported as being something like £90k a week on signing and considered an exceptional coup by many, in recent weeks, that has inflated to £150k-200k-225k depending on who and what you read.
More, some have gone so far as saying the club is deliberately leaking this (mis)-information to garner support from Blues that he is an expensive indulgence we cannot afford to retain.
Both the true value of his salary, plus the claim that it is the club spoonfeeding the media these numbers, are purely speculative, not based on the truly known or the provable.
I recall on his signing, talk of Everton and James agreeing to a lower salary with him retaining full control over his image rights rather than the club taking a cut from this. This is no small matter. In July, it was revealed that Ronaldo was now the highest paid celebrity on Instagram and could command $1.6 million per sponsored post. James, with his tens of millions of followers, no doubt commands lesser, but still considerable, sums.
I don't follow the 'logic' some are applying that if you accept or support the club's decision to move him on that that some how makes you a fan who rejects the artist in preference to the artisan. Personally, I appreciate both and understand that a happy balance of diverse profiles makes for a successful winning football team.
Nor do I subscribe to the opinion expressed by some that this was a foolish recruitment and was ill-thought-out by the club. Rather, it was duplicating what more successful Premier League clubs have done for years. Our profile and sponsorship deals in the Americas improved as a result of recruting James.
There IS a plan in place to expand Everton into new markets, as this article from last week's Echo shows.
Some have used his departure as a vehicle to bash both Benitez and the club. I don't and I won't. There are a lot of circumstantial – and legitimate – reasons why he has gone.
The biggest regret I have in his brief sojourn at the club is that the match-going Evertonians never had a chance to view him in the flesh.
That is the greatest unknown for me in all this. Because who knows what might have resulted if both he and the fans had 'met' each other and forged genuine affection and appreciation for each other?
43 Posted 23/09/2021 at 18:37:18
Probably the best and most reasonable post on any of the James threads.
44 Posted 23/09/2021 at 18:37:59
I thought at the time that one of the advantages of Carlo coming to Everton would be that his name and reputation would attract the type of players we would otherwise not be able to attract (even though those players might be somewhat past their prime – eg, James) and those players of renown in turn would help, slowly, to attract further players of quality.
Sadly we didn't get the time to see all that possibly work out, given the limited transfer window opportunities before Carlo left.
46 Posted 23/09/2021 at 20:15:06
47 Posted 23/09/2021 at 20:28:38
I feel that this will be used as a stick to beat Benitez with and, if it is down to him, rightly so I feel. We need clarity on why he left, but our club is not good at clarity.
I also put on another thread that I believe Moshiri has now abandoned his dreams of Champions League football and is now more interested in increasing the club's value. I fully expect us in 5 years to be a mid-table side in a new stadium, and up for sale.
48 Posted 23/09/2021 at 22:12:39
James was a gifted player with skills that could not be coached, but he needed other players to bring out the best in him.
With other teams he played for, plus his international team, he had quality players with the different type of skill levels that Everton could not provide. Once Ancelotti found out he may not receive large amounts of money to build a team, he was off.
James with playing in South America and other continents, was no shrinking violet, but finding at this stage in life in the Premier League, that it was getting hard to maintain his fitness levels through injuries after being a target for defenders and not getting a lot of protection from referees.
There were rumours he wanted to leave before Ancelotti left, and when Benitez was hired, with the knowledge he had of the style and commitment Benitez demands of his players, he realized there was no place for him at Everton, plus the lack of quality James needed to help his game.
There are no one-man bands in football anymore but you can have outstanding individuals, but they require quality help. It will be a long time before Everton get in enough quality players to compliment a player like James. Along with his fitness record, Everton were willing to let him go.
49 Posted 23/09/2021 at 23:03:20
Your ability to digest information, balance it and present it in a factual, entertaining and thought-out manner is unmatched
Honestly, as one comment has said, you've summed up my own thoughts and feelings better than I could have.
I just don't know how our club is being run. From one summer, procuring James, to the next summer, spending £1.7M total. That in itself shows just how poorly we are being run and without any kind of proper or effective strategy.
50 Posted 24/09/2021 at 01:17:09
If they cant be there for some very good reason, youd like to think they are at home listening intently to a radio commentary of the match, or similar, like the rest of us.
Im not naive enough to think that James is the first or last player we have had that cared far more about himself than the Club and fans paying his astronomical wages, but if he cant be bothered to support his team mates in person at the match every now and then… then I wont be shedding any tears of his departure to this backwater of World football.
51 Posted 24/09/2021 at 01:52:28
In the cold light of day I think I still miss Eto'o more than I will Rodriguez.
There is a lesson in here somewhere.
52 Posted 24/09/2021 at 04:13:01
I am ambivalent on his departure, while I see it making financial sense, you can't possibly have a player, albeit with mercurial talent, on Lottery Win Wages every week and not even on the bench for whatever reason.
I must admit the other side, that he did excite, mostly when played on the rare occasion and was a joy to watch. Whereas in some other games he was virtually anonymous. I don't suppose we will ever know the ins and outs of why he played so infrequently.
Was it through genuine injury? Was it 'dummy out of the pram' time? Or was there really a rift between him and Benitez? Mind you, having said that, he didn't exactly play every game under that hitherto rotter Carlo ("I am very happy here"?) Ancelotti either.
Then there are the commercial aspects, if we are to believe that we inherited so many Colombian and Worldwide supporters and everything that entailed (extra TV revenue, merchandise etc) plus the potential to attract other top players. Oh, wait a minute! We couldn't buy any because we were FFP cash-strapped. Total mismanagement from the top.
Now... where are those headache pills?
53 Posted 24/09/2021 at 08:56:44
54 Posted 24/09/2021 at 11:15:12
Now, even if Moshiri wished to waste even more money, FFP has caught up with the mismanagement he has failed to deal with. A Director of Football who seems to have no say on signings, which is the most important ingredient to success. James was never Brands's choice yet he accepted it and it has proven another very costly mistake.
Now the tap has been turned off, we're reduced to scraping the bottom of the barrel. Where lies Brands's vision, if he ever had one. This summer's acquisitions for the senior squad are straight out of Rafa's playbook. The DOF looks increasingly redundant as we continue to scout the likes of King, Rondon and Begovic.
55 Posted 24/09/2021 at 11:38:40
Back to the origins of the thread, James is a very talented player. Unfortunately though his body is broken and his determination and bravery is gone; sadly this is indicative of most high-profile world-class highly paid players.
Maybe the likes of Messi and Ronaldo are blessed with a true love of the game, unlike our James...
56 Posted 24/09/2021 at 13:07:43
Benitez is putting an emphasis on work and effort and, as the season progresses, I feel that a little extra is needed in quality and skill. An option that Everton now do not have and which I will have to live with.
57 Posted 24/09/2021 at 18:14:57
58 Posted 24/09/2021 at 21:06:45
59 Posted 24/09/2021 at 23:08:46
60 Posted 24/09/2021 at 23:10:01
61 Posted 25/09/2021 at 08:39:06
62 Posted 25/09/2021 at 08:52:31
Chelsea and City steadily got there with expensive buys that didn't initially quite come off, but they kept doing it until it did. Speculate to accumulate as they say.
Okay, FFP has now made that approach more difficult and it's a different landscape. But to repeat myself, the simple fact is that if you want the best, you have to pay for it and they won't be here because they are Evertonians or want to play for the club. They're at a club to get paid well, play football and progress their career.
Eventually you get to a point when players want to play for the club, but the majority of the best will only want to be at the club if it is successful, is good for their career progression and allows them to fulfil their ambition to win.
If you want people who just want to play for the club, hire a sentimental fool like me for free!
63 Posted 25/09/2021 at 22:20:33
Just read an article suggesting Rodriguez has a clause in his contract allowing him to leave his new club should PSG come calling. If it's true, I hope Everton benefit somewhere along the line.
64 Posted 05/10/2021 at 12:03:38
It's like we're not allowed nice things. But James hurts more than all of them.
65 Posted 16/10/2021 at 06:47:09
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