With James Rodriguez leaving Everton for Qatari club Al-Rayyan barely a year after his celebrated arrival at Goodison Park, Sky Sports News reporter Alan Myers reflects on the Colombian’s high-profile move to Merseyside, why it didn’t work out, and what his exit means for the club going forwards…
First of all, I think the overriding feeling for Everton fans is disappointment. Firstly that it didn’t work out but also because none of them got to see him play. His entire Everton career was played behind closed doors and even the final home game of last season, when 6,500 fans were in Goodison Park, he wasn’t involved because he was injured.
A lot of fans would have liked to have seen him play for Everton because there was a lot of excitement around his arrival. It was almost a feeling of disbelief that he was joining from Real Madrid. The move came along with the euphoria that was still there from Carlo Ancelotti coming to the club, too.
It seemed like there was going to be a new direction at Everton under Ancelotti, with the likes of James coming in, and other signings such as Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure. With those signings, it felt like the club was making a step up.
As we all know now, that didn’t come to fruition. Ancelotti left very suddenly to go to Real Madrid and now James has departed after one season, in which he made 23 Premier League appearances, scored six goals and recorded four assists.
Those two exits aren’t connected. From what I am told, James had already decided that he didn’t want to continue playing at Everton before Ancelotti’s announcement. He was unhappy and would have liked to have left sooner.
Since new manager Rafa Benitez has come in – and with James effectively frozen out of the side – there was speculation that James didn’t fit into his plans. I’m pretty certain that wasn’t the case. The one person I wouldn’t blame at all in all of this is Benitez.
Benitez wants people committed to the club and he knew straight off that this player wanted to go – and if that’s the case, he has to move on. Benitez hasn’t got time to see if he could talk him around. Don’t forget Benitez has come in under huge pressure as well.
Even the top clubs can’t carry players who don’t really want to be there and that’s especially true at Everton, who need 100 per cent commitment, which we’ve seen from the likes of Andros Townsend.
So where did it go wrong?
I think it’s been a perfect storm.
I don’t personally feel that Everton are in a position to have players such as James at the moment. What you might call luxury players. There’s absolutely no doubting the talent of James and players of his level but they swim in a different pond and I don’t think Everton are there.
Everton are still having to build a mentality and an ethos. They need people who are going to graft, people who want to be there, people who want to be part of the team.
The aim is, of course, to have those sort of players and that sort of squad, with a top class manager. But there is a lot of building and basic stuff to be put into place first, with regards to the team.
Because of what’s going on with the stadium and everything else off the field, people just automatically equate that as the team going to another level. The club might be, but that doesn’t necessarily follow with the team.
When things aren’t going well as a team, players like James are the first to be vocal about it because they’re used to a different level and that’s what I think was the problem.
Whether that’s his fault, or the club’s fault for getting him, or a manager’s fault, I don’t know. I think it’s a combination of everything. But it’s very much an avalanche effect. Once the foundation starts to crack, everything falls on top.
This was a great opportunity for James. He was well looked after and he was well liked at the club, too. But it wasn’t like he was in top class form when he came to Everton. And I think he maybe started to panic because things already weren’t great for him – in terms of his past few seasons at Real Madrid and on loan at Bayern Munich – and he saw the ground shifting from under him again with the performance of the team, which exacerbates the problem.
Add in to that the financial situation. It’s no secret that Everton are close to the threshold of ‘Profit and Sustainability’ rules, which is effectively the Premier League’s Financial Fairplay. In the last transfer window, they were working on a one out, one in basis.
However, James was the highest paid player in the history of Everton Football Club. They tried to get a deal done with him to go to Porto and then a club in the UAE, but that didn’t happen before the transfer deadline. They’ve now managed to do a deal with Al-Rayyan.
This isn’t an avenue Everton will go down again any time soon, certainly not from a financial point of view.
The last five years have been a real lesson for owner Farhad Moshiri. They’ve spent over £500m and they’re still going out of the Carabao Cup in the third round, struggling in the league, finishing 10th. That’s not good enough for the money that’s been spent.
It’s not one person’s fault, it’s collective responsibility and the owner needs to look at it and say, ‘was that the right thing to do? Do we need a different strategy?’.
Because bringing in James did not work for Everton or the player.