James Rodriguez was never going to be at Everton if it wasn’t for Carlo Ancelotti coming to Merseyside. And with the Italian manager gone, it was very unlikely the Colombian superstar would stay at the Toffees.
After being signed by Ancelotti at Real Madrid, following him to Bayern Munich, almost joining him at Napoli, and then coming to Everton on a free transfer, now it appears he will be following his former manager again, but only to the same city as he’s dropped a big hint that he could actually be signing for Atletico Madrid, Real’s crosstown bitter rivals.
Nunca dejes de creer. pic.twitter.com/jc1L65tXwa— James Rodríguez (@jamesdrodriguez) August 16, 2021
In what looks like a scheduled post on Twitter, the forward has a picture of himself smiling, with the words ‘nunca dejes de creer’ in Spanish along with emojis of a grin and an arrow saying soon.
The words translate to ‘never stop believing’, but more importantly, they are a slogan of Atletico Madrid. While this could be a massive coincidence, with his future on Merseyside up in the air it does seem too well-timed and planned to be an accident.
Ancelotti’s surprise exit meant that James was likely to leave before the transfer window closed in the end of August, and with the Blues then appointing Rafa Benitez that pretty much sealed his departure. James has never been on good terms with Benitez after their storied feud while at Real Madrid together.
Earlier in the transfer window there had been some rumours that AC Milan could be interested in James, but that trail ran cold and there had been no news of any interest from the defending La Liga champions before today.
Spanish media have previously reported that Atleti were interested in him last summer but Real wouldn't sell to their bitter rivals, instead choosing to let him come to Everton.
Speaking on his Twitch channel last week, James complained that he had been training on his own and that he was not in contention for selection for Everton’s season opener against Southampton. He went on to say that he wasn’t sure where he would be plying his trade this season despite his countryman and Toffees teammate Yerry Mina pleading with him to stay.
In his pre-match press conference Benitez appeared to indicate that James was not available for the Saints game because he was part of the COVID isolation protocol, but wouldn’t be drawn into providing more details.
Everton are strapped for free cash this summer under the Premier League’s profit and sustainability regulations, and getting a transfer fee as well as offloading James’ rumoured £200,000 per week wages would certainly give the Blues a lot more breathing room.
Make no mistake though, when James was fit and in his element on the pitch, he was devastating and led or was in the top three in almost every attacking metric for the Blues. Should James choose to leave, Everton will struggle to replace his prowess, though considering he was only fully fit for less than half the season, they will probably take their chances that the pragmatic Benitez will find value elsewhere.