James Rodriguez has returned to training and over the international break has been seen at Finch Farm mostly doing fitness drills on his own over the last week. The superstar last featured for Everton in the derby win at Anfield, but has not played in the five matches the Blues have been in since then.
On an interview with evertontv, the 29-year-old indicated that he is fit and ready to return and though he has already scored five times with eight assists in just over 1,600 minutes of action this season, that he has still a lot more to contribute with ten games left in Everton’s campaign to secure a berth in Europe next season.
“I’m reasonably happy with how I am playing. I think there’s more to come and I can hit some better form.
“But when I’ve performed well, it’s had a positive effect on the team. And that’s what I want: for the team to play good football and perform at a high standard.”
Both the club and the fanbase have embraced the player who has featured for some of the biggest names in the club football scene, having lit up the globe during World Cup 2014 when he nabbed the Golden Boot. He has since been reunited on Merseyside with Carlo Ancelotti who signed him for Real Madrid back then, and then again for Bayern Munich.
“It’s been very easy to settle. I’ve come to a good club, a club that wants to achieve big things.
“I’m with a manager who knows exactly what I’m like. He knows how to relate to his players and staff. I get on fantastically well with him, just like a father and son. So, everything was very easy and straightforward.”
James has struggled with niggles this season, missing fifteen games with various ailments.
“The football is a lot more physical [than other European leagues]. There’s a lot of contact and you see fouls all the time.
“But these are all new experiences and I’m happy to be adding this one to my list.”
James has been one of Everton’s biggest creative forces this season and the Blues have sorely missed his influence on the right wing drifting while he’s been out injured. His expected assists (xA90) number of 0.30 is seventh-best in the league, and tied with Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-Min, while Richarlison and he are tied for Everton’s second-best with 0.46 xG90 + xA90 (expected goal contributions) per ninety minutes on the pitch. Put in another way, James can be relied upon to get a goal or an assist every other game while also leading the Toffees with 2.1 key passes per game, ahead of Bernard, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Lucas Digne.
Playing for Everton though has been a different challenge for the Colombia international who is not surrounded now by a bevy of world beaters and superstars on Merseyside, and like for Ancelotti, it has been a different challenge.
“I always wanted to play in Europe and for big clubs and I’m grateful to have played for two of the biggest. Many of my hopes and dreams have come to fruition, but... when you fulfil your dreams, you want to achieve even more.
“So here we are, now, taking things step by step. Yes [Everton can attain the heights of Real and Bayern], why not? Firstly… we need to be fighting it out around the top of the league.”
Everton crashed out of the FA Cup last weekend after a quarter-final loss to runaway league leaders Manchester City, and will endure another season without a trophy, but fans would now gladly settle for a top six finish with the dream of European nights to come.
“The past two games haven’t been as good as we would have liked but that’s the Premier League. Every game is like a final… a battle.
“But that’s what we’re here for and you have to make sure you’re in good shape and strong mentally and prepared for everything, as it’s going to be tough.”
His Colombian teammate Yerry Mina is very popular both with teammates and the fans with his outgoing and personable nature.
“Yerry and I get on really well, I speak with him all the time and give him advice on lots of things. He wants to learn and is very inquisitive. He’s always asking what I’m doing or how I do this that or the other.
“And, as a footballer, that’s a really good attribute to have. I’m a bit like that myself, I want to learn new stuff every day and I’m always curious about how I do things.
“Off the field as well as on it… things like your recovery and diet and sleep. That’s what I see in him… and that’s what we’re here for, isn’t it? To help one another out.”