If it’s worked twice then why not a third time?
Soon after the curtain came down on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Carlo Ancelotti - then manager at Real Madrid - made it very clear that he wanted the winner of the Golden Boot at the Bernabeu. The powers that be complied, and James Rodriguez signed a six year deal for a transfer fee of about £71 million including add-ons, making him the fourth most expensive player of all time.
In the summer of 2017, Ancelotti - this time at Bayern Munich - wanted Rodriguez on his squad again. The two clubs worked out a deal and the German side took him on loan for a two-year period for a fee of nearly £12m, but Madrid secured their investment by signing him to a new four year contract before that. The attacker ended up with 15 goals and 20 assists in 67 appearances for Bayern.
Last summer, with Rodriguez’ loan complete and Bayern not picking up the option to buy him outright for £38m at the player’s own request, Ancelotti once again came knocking this time while in charge at Napoli. A deal could not be worked out however and this brings us to the present.
James Rodriguez stats under Carlo Ancelotti [Opta] pic.twitter.com/YL3xabLFl2— #DoubleTreble (@iMiaSanMia) July 11, 2017
Pretty much every single player that has featured for Ancelotti and is still active (even barely) has been linked with a transfer to Everton since the veteran Italian manager has moved to Merseyside, but few have been mentioned as often as Rodriguez. Now The Telegraph (and a multitude of other British media sources including Sky Sports) are claiming that the Toffees have made an approach to Real Madrid for the 29-year-old with the Spanish champions seriously considering the offer as they look to offload a player who has fallen out of favour with manager Zinedine Zidane, despite scoring 37 goals and 42 assists in 125 games. Apparently according to Sport in Spain they will be satisfied with letting the player go for as little as £7.7 million, though Marca claim the number is closer to £18-22m.
Like all footballers who are at the wrong end of their twenties, signing Rodriguez comes with considerable risk. The Colombian international had his loan spell in Munich blighted by a multitude of back, knee and calf ailments and just this last season missed at least 14 games with more of the same.
Rodriguez has 22 goals and 25 assists in 76 international appearances for Colombia, and currently commands wages of about £200,000 per week, more than Everton have ever paid a player to don the royal blue. Even favoured son Wayne Rooney, on his return to the club, took a wage cut to get down to about £150k a week. For a club that is struggling to manage its wage bill bloated by bit-part and over-the-hill players already, going after Rodriguez might require Real Madrid to foot a significant portion of his wages as well as waiving any or most of whatever transfer fees the two clubs decide upon.
Not a whole lot of minutes there over the last two seasons, but that is pretty much creme de la creme for an attacking midfielder/winger. We spoke with Zach who manages the SBN blog Villarreal USA and is our resident Spanish football expert about how he would fit in at Everton.
At Real Madrid Carlo used James in a 4-4-2 as a right midfielder, but that 4-4-2 was fundamentally different than Everton’s because it was not as reliant on speed; Madrid usually dominated the ball. Because James usually stayed wide in the 4-4-2, Isco on the opposite side would usually drift inside. I feel like if Everton doesn’t have the majority of the ball, James is going to be left out wide spectating.
James also worked really well in a free ‘8’ role at Madrid. If Carlo is thinking about going to a 4-3-3, James and Allan (if he shows up) above someone like Andre Gomes in a midfield would mimic many of the characteristics of the Luka Modric - Toni Kroos - James combination that existed sporadically in a pre-Casemiro 2014-2015 Real Madrid.
Ultimately, he’s good enough that you build the system around him. You aren’t going to have a press-heavy system with James Rodriguez, but if you give him plenty of the ball he’ll tear defenses apart.
While there is a big risk in building a system around an ageing, injury-prone player especially when the backup in that position is another ageing, legs-gone player in Gylfi Sigurdsson, this looks like a ‘trust fall’ situation here with Ancelotti - if the manager wants him, then he knows best and as fans we’re just going to have to accept that.
However, if the Blues can also somehow sign Allan and Abdoulaye Doucouré as well, then in one fell swoop the club’s leadership will have somehow solved their midfield issues while adding a player who can play wide midfield or right winger as required too.
As for sorting out the wage bill and bringing down the average age of the squad, those might be issues to deal with in later transfer windows for Marcel Brands.