Everton struggled for attacking inspiration for long periods of last season struggling to score more than once for a big chunk of the second half of the previous campaign. Manager Carlo Ancelotti has moved to address that with the Blues’ latest signing, James Rodriguez.
The Colombia international attacking midfielder brings a wealth of talent and experience to the blue half of Merseyside, along with a rabid fan-following on social media as he joins up with his Los Cafeteros teammate Yerry Mina.
Rodriguez joins the Toffees on a new two-year deal with an option for a third year, with one-year left on his current deal with Real Madrid, looking to recapture some of the form that has previously seen him become one of the most household names and faces in world football. While no official information has been released, word has it that he’s joining the Blues on a very reasonable weekly wage of just under £77,000, which puts him squarely in the middle of the wage bill.
Speaking about his transfer, Rodriguez said -
“I am really, really happy to be at this great club, a club with so much history, and here with a manager who knows me really well.
“I’m looking forward to achieving great things here – and winning things, which is what everyone’s aim is.
“I’ve come here to try to improve, to get better. I’ve also come here to help the team to win, to play good football – entertaining football.
“I’m convinced, with Carlo and his technical staff, we can achieve big things and one of the big reasons [I signed] was the presence of Carlo Ancelotti.
“I have enjoyed some great times with him previously at two different clubs. That was a massive reason to come here.”
Ancelotti goes back a long way with the 29-year-old, having signed him soon after his Golden Boot-winning performance in the 2014 World Cup for Real, and then obtaining him on loan while at Bayern Munich, before making another attempt for the player while in charge at Napoli as well.
Speaking about the signing, the veteran manager said -
“James, as everyone knows, is a fantastic player with a lot of quality and a lot of ability to make assists for the strikers.
“He’s really excited about the project of the Club and the fact we want to improve. He was really excited to sign and I didn’t spend time to convince him - he was already convinced.
“Players like James and Allan can help us to be better and we can help them to be better. This kind of connection can be helpful to improve the results, the team and results of this Club.”
Like all footballers who are at the wrong end of their twenties, signing Rodriguez comes with considerable risk. The player 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. Evertonians everywhere though will be hoping desperately for the pair to rekindle the magic they’ve had in their past together at the Bernabeu, but this time at Goodison Park.
James Rodriguez stats under Carlo Ancelotti [Opta] pic.twitter.com/YL3xabLFl2— #DoubleTreble (@iMiaSanMia) July 11, 2017
Our resident Spanish football expert Zach - who also manages the SBN blog Villarreal USA - speculated loosely 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.
Like every other summer before this, the Blues are looking like they are making the right moves, but it’s when the season starts in just over a week will we truly know what’s working and what’s not.