It’s been quite the rise and fall for James Rodriguez at Everton.
It was only last summer that the Colombian arrived at Goodison Park as Carlo Ancelotti’s marquee signing to turn around the Toffee’s fortunes.
But just 12 months on his career has taken a dramatic change of direction – more specifically towards Qatar.
James is on the brink of ending his stay at Everton after travelling to the UAE for talks with Qatari side Al Rayyan.
Everton outcast James Rodriguez is close to completing a move to Qatari side Al Rayyan
The Colombian is out of favour at Goodison Park and has not featured yet this season
The 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner signed a two-year deal at Goodison Park just a year ago, while the club held the option of taking up a third year.
His arrival 12 months ago from Real Madrid to link up with former Los Blancos boss Carlo Ancelotti was greeted with great fanfare.
His signing was marked across Merseyside through billboards and a projection on the Albert Docks.
And his early performances swiftly proved the attention was warranted.
James joined Everton just 12 months ago on a two-year deal but has since flopped
James enjoyed a fine start to his Everton career, being the catalyst for Everton’s table-topping early form.
He scored three goals and registered three assists in his first six Premier League games.
But he failed to build on an encouraging start and reproduce his best form, not starting more than four consecutive Premier League fixtures for the remainder of the campaign.
A calf injury blighted his debut season in England. He picked up the first of many injuries in Everton’s tempestuous 2-2 draw in the Merseyside derby.
A calf injury marred his debut season at Goodison Park causing him to miss several games
Persistent calf problems then caused Rodriguez to miss further games in December, March and May.
But it was his actions off the pitch that really set the tone for his Everton career. His final act of last season in particular made it clear where his priorities lay.
Rodriguez missed the last game of the campaign, once again through injury, but instead of sticking around to support his team-mates, he jetted off on a private jet to the Copa America while his side suffered a 5-0 mauling at the hands of Manchester City.
He jetted off at the end of last season to Copa America instead of supporting his team-mates
The 30-year-old enjoyed brief glimmers of success, notably an assist in the Merseyside derby
There were still a handful of undoubtedly sparkling moments last season, notably a memorable assist in a historic win at Anfield in the return derby and excellent goals against Leicester and Manchester United.
But he is yet to make an appearance for the Toffees this season despite announcing he was fit and ‘ready’ to feature.
Ahead of Everton’s Premier League clash against Burnley earlier this month, the playmaker told fans on Twitch: ‘If they want to take me I’m ready.’
But Rafael Benitez still refused to name him in the squad, despite James’s eagerness to play.
And, the fact that Everton have endured just one defeat in their opening seven games of the 2021/22 campaign without Rodriguez in their arsenal spells an awkward truth.
James is not going to walk into Benitez’s team, especially when it seems his attacking prowess is not needed.
Benitez’s Everton will be built on hard work and a battling approach, and the manager has made it clear that ‘the name of the player, the popularity or how many followers they have in their social media’ is of no concern to him when it comes to naming his team.
The departure of Carlo Ancelotti (left) and arrival of Rafael Benitez (right) spelled trouble
Earlier this month, Benitez hinted that Rodriguez’s Everton future was very much in his own hands. ‘I think he realised that he has to improve in a lot of things. He has to focus, he has to show his commitment,’ the Spaniard said.
‘It’s what he is trying to do and that is good news for us because he can give us something more.’
The midfielder is said to have a tense relationship with the new Blues boss
When Benitez came in to replace Ancelotti following the Italian’s sudden departure, it only spelled trouble for James.
The pair are said to have a tense relationship in the wake of a falling out during their time together at Madrid.
Reports of friction began in 2015 when Benitez asked the Colombian to end his holidays and join the team on their pre-season tour of Australia earlier than originally planned.
James refused to do so as he had just participated in the Copa America and instead joined the team in China.
Benitez then dropped the Colombian to the bench for Real’s LaLiga opener against Sporting Gijon due to his fitness, fuelling rumours of a falling out.
The midfield dynamo then reportedly grew ‘disillusioned’ under the former Reds boss after continuously being dropped from the starting XI throughout the 2015-16 season.
But in an apparent attempt to build bridges, Benitez gave James a chance to prove his worth in Everton pre-season but the midfielder is still struggling to break into the Spaniard’s hard-working system.
Upon his arrival Benitez gave Rodriguez the change to impress but he hasn’t made the team
He hasn’t furthered his case by causing controversy when he admitted that he didn’t know who Everton were playing next ahead of their trip to Leeds in August.
With his Italian mentor gone and his heart clearly not in the club, there was a strong sense that James would be a one-season wonder in marriage with Ancelotti’s tenure and could also seek pastures new.
James was desperate to make a Goodison exit this summer, with his agent Jorge Mendes even resorting to phoning clubs to offer him up on a plate, while Everton all but auctioned him off.
The playmaker was linked to a reunion with Ancelotti that would see him return to Madrid
He was heavily linked with yet another reunion with new Real Madrid boss Ancelotti, who reportedly told the club he wanted to bring the Colombian back to the Santiago Bernabeu.
Everton, meanwhile, were in talks to sign Porto winger Luis Diaz as part of a swap deal but the move failed to materialise.
It was then claimed he turned down a transfer to Istanbul Basaksehir in favour of fighting for his place on Merseyside.
But now it seems Rodriguez is finally making his Goodison exit as he swaps the Merseyside riviera for the Middle East.