Former Aston Villa forward and pundit Gabriel Agbonlahor has backed attacking playmaker James Rodriguez to push for a January exit from Everton if he is not rehabilitated.
The Colombian has yet to feature this season under Rafa Benitez, with new summer signing Demarai Gray being preferred over other options as the creative pivot in Benitez’ 4-2-3-1 system.
The Athletic reported on September 6 Benitez will be punitive against the attacking midfielder for failing to engineer a move amid links with European clubs.
As a result, the door has been opened for Rodriguez to continue to play a role with the Toffees this summer – but Agbonlahor has noted his competitive big-name status.
Speaking on the complicated situation to Football Insider, the pundit deliberated:
“It all depends on what the manager is thinking. We don’t know what Benitez is thinking. He might be thinking ‘He’s not part of my plans’. But he could think ‘If he gets fit, he might be part of my plans’.
“It all depends on what Benitez is thinking.
“I’m sure James Rodriguez will not want to sit on the bench. If he’s on the bench, he’s going to want to play as a starter as he has done for most of his career.”
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Rodriguez will not be accustomed to a bit-part role at Everton.
The Colombian scored six times and provided five assists in 23 Premier League games last term, demonstrating his important role under previous manager Carlo Ancelotti.
Rodriguez and Benitez have a history of animosity following their time together at Real Madrid which could have served as a complicating factor, so it is reassuring that the past seems willing to be buried in favour of team cohesion.
Having Rodriguez available can serve as a real asset to the squad given his contributions last season, and rehabilitating him is crucial.