The assumption was that a World Cup Golden Boot winner would need some persuading to sign for a club who finished in 12th in their league. Not James Rodriguez.
“I spoke to Carlo and I said yes. It wasn’t: ‘I’ll think about it and then I’ll tell you’ I said yes,” stated the Colombian. The presence of Carlo Ancelotti, a manager who had also signed him for Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, has given Everton a new pulling power but the Italian supported his flagship buy’s version of events.
Some players have equivocated about joining Everton in recent years. One or two may have seen it as a consolation prize. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, another summer target, preferred to go to Tottenham. Rodriguez, and his fellow recruits Allan and Abdoulaye Doucoure, passed Ancelotti’s test.
“There is a key question when you talk to a player: do you really want to come?” he said. “There are some that say yes and others that say: ‘Maybe, I have to think about this.’ These three players we signed simply answered yes, full stop.
"I want to have players that have a desire to come to this club, full stop. The player that doesn’t have this desire, we move on. These three players said yes, simple answer.”
It may have been easier to get answers in the affirmative at some of the clubs Ancelotti has managed in the last two decades.
Rodriguez has spent the last six seasons at two of the world’s most decorated teams in Real and Bayern. Everton have not won silverware for 25 years but an ambitious signing believes they can end the longest wait in their history.
“Why not? It is a club that means business,” Rodriguez said. “There are a lot of serious-minded people at all levels who mean to achieve and that means winning trophies. That won’t happen overnight but I have seen real positive signs. I look around me and I see winners, on the field and in the backroom staff.”
Ancelotti was a factor in his decision. “It influenced me a lot,” he said. “It is great to be back to work with the manager again. We enjoyed a great season together in 2014-15 and we have a great relationship. Six or seven years ago I had something good.”
He scored 17 goals in that 2014-15 campaign, after the six that made him the World Cup’s leading scorer.
Last season brought a mere eight appearances in La Liga and Rodriguez admitted the prospect of regular football was part of his motivation to trade Madrid for Merseyside. His fortunes have faded but the 29-year-old believes his best football could be in the future. “I certainly hope so,” he said. “I am still young.”
Ancelotti argued Rodriguez is better in some ways than the player he first signed six years ago. “Now he has more knowledge about football, about tactics,” he said. “I think the time he spent in Madrid and in Munich helped him to be a better player with more knowledge and more complete.”
The dilemma for Ancelotti is where to use a flair player whose versatility adds to his appeal. “I think he has the quality of a No 10,” said Ancelotti, though, if that makes Rodriguez an upgrade on Gylfi Sigurdsson, Everton often did not use one last season.
“But he played really well in my first year in Madrid as a midfielder. We played three and he played on the left with [Luka] Modric and Toni Kroos and had a fantastic season. He played also really well as a right winger with Real Madrid. He can play everywhere but he is not going to play as a defender, that’s for sure.”