James Rodriguez: Everton boss Rafa Benitez confirms Colombian playmaker unavailable for Premier League opener

Rafa Benitez has confirmed James Rodriguez will not feature for Everton against Southampton on Saturday as he is isolating; uncertainty continues to surround the future of the 30-year-old, just a year after his arrival at Goodison Park

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Everton will try to resolve James Rodriguez's future at Goodison Park while Dominic Calvert-Lewin and Richarlison are available to face Southampton, says Rafa Benitez

James Rodriguez is unavailable for Everton's Premier League opener against Southampton on Saturday as uncertainty continues to surround the Colombia playmaker's future.

While forwards Richarlison and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are set to be involved in the contest at Goodison Park, Rodriguez is among five Everton players currently isolating.

Rafael Benitez, preparing for his first competitive match as Toffees boss after succeeding Carlo Ancelotti in June, was asked at his pre-match press conference on Friday if Rodriguez was part of his plans or if he would be allowed to leave.

Rafa Benitez faced a lot of hostility after he was appointed Everton boss this summer due to his Liverpool links
Image: Rafa Benitez is preparing for his first Premier League game in charge of Everton

And he said: "I have had my conversation with him at the beginning, and then he knows my idea - but now he is not available, so it is not an issue for tomorrow.

"We will discuss every single player with them, with their agents and then try to find the best solution for us, for the club, and also for the players.

"Richarlison and Calvert-Lewin are available, but we have some players that are in isolation, and then we have to manage that."

Richarlison only returned to training with Everton on Wednesday after winning Olympic gold with Brazil in Tokyo, while England striker Calvert-Lewin missed last weekend's friendly against Manchester United due to a knock.

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With coronavirus restrictions having eased, Goodison Park is set to be full tomorrow for the first time since March 2020.

When Benitez was asked if he could understand fans wanting to see Rodriguez, who joined the club in September last year, in the flesh if possible, he said: "I understand that the fans want to see the best players possible on the pitch to win the game.

"He is one of them. We have Richarlison, Dominic, and anyone that I can name now in the team - they must be good players on the pitch.

"I think they have seen during these weeks what we can try to do, and the point is that after 17 months I think they will be desperate to see the team on the pitch, to cheer the players, to support the team."

Rafa Benitez begins his reign at Everton

What are Everton's aspirations under Rafa?

By Ben Grounds

"To be fair, the Evertonians around my place are quite happy and very supportive. Even the Liverpudlians accepted it was an opportunity for me to come back to the Premier League."

The dust has settled since Rafael Benitez became only the second manager after William Edward Barclay to have both Liverpool and Everton on his CV.

There was some opposition to his appointment, with Merseyside Police investigating after a threatening banner which read 'We know where you live, don't sign', but the Spaniard is determined to make a success of his time on the blue half of the divide.

"Football is quite emotional and everybody will have their opinions," he said at his unveiling. "For me it's a challenge, a chance to do well in the Premier League, and show everyone we can compete."

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