James Rodriguez is an Everton player and the Toffees are top of the Premier League.
You may want to repeat that to yourself a few times just to let it sink in, because it doesn’t seem real. Obviously, we’re still very early in the season but the signs so far are incredibly positive with the Colombian strutting his stuff most superbly.
Everton have been spending big money for a while now under the ownership of Farhad Moshiri, so many names procured for sometimes eye-watering amounts. Gylfi Sigurdsson and Richarlison alone cost damn near £100m.
Then there’s Carlo Ancelotti, an incredibly high-profile manager who seemed to have come to Everton for a paycheque. But all suspicions about how serious Everton were had to be allayed this summer when they added Rodriguez.
To be clear, Everton have spent a lot of money this summer. They signed Allan from Napoli, Abdoulaye Doucoure from Watford and Ben Godfrey from relegated Norwich City. But none of that would matter because without that one figure, that one talisman to bring everything together, Everton would have carried on being Everton.
Their midfield would have been nice, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin would have improved (although not as much as he has). They would have worked hard but their ropey defence and downright terrible goalkeeper would have buried them.
Instead, they signed Rodriguez, and the whole club got a massive lift.
Off the field, when you’re signing a player who has been one of the leading lights at a World Cup and won multiple Champions Leagues as well as La Liga and the Bundesliga, it makes everyone feel confident about the direction the club is heading in.
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And then on the field, Rodriguez is just such a spectacular talent; one of the five or six best players in the Premier League, full-stop. Years of struggle in Madrid, because he didn’t get along with Zinedine Zidane, have led to a lot of people kind of forgetting how good he is.
Well, you can bet they remember now.
His performances on the pitch were always going to depend on whether or not he settled. Obviously, the potential for him to be a disappointment existed, but it would have been a tremendous surprise had he not shone under Carlo Ancelotti.
And shone he has.
In his four Premier League games so far, Rodriguez has scored three times, assisted twice, created 12 chances (fourth in the division), four big chances (second in the division) and completed eight out of 14 attempted take-ons. Those numbers are obviously impressive and the Colombian has come up clutch for the Toffees on more than one occasion now, but you have to look beyond the numbers to see his true impact.
Everton are now going into every game believing they can win. They are playing with incredible confidence and swagger that they just wouldn’t have had in the past. They went down against West Brom and roared back to win, they were pegged back by West Brom, Palace, West Ham (in the EFL Cup) and Brighton and still went on to win.
Obviously, their defensive shortcomings have to be addressed if they want to seriously think about staying in the top four (or even better) but with Rodriguez, their attack is scintillating to watch. They will always be “in” a game because the Colombian is such a totemic presence that others in the squad have stepped up their game to match his level.
This is a player who just has this effect on people. Colombia’s 2014 World Cup squad was robbed of their star striker Radamel Falcao through injury, but Rodriguez pulled everyone together and led them to the quarter-finals, where only a systemic and determined gameplan of tactical fouling from Brazil on Rodriguez himself was enough to finally derail the Colombians.
Some superstars go to “smaller” clubs like Everton and play down to their surroundings. Others play to their usual level but on their own, never managing to bring anyone with them (Alexis Sánchez springs to mind). The final group raise every player up, they inspire as much as they thrill, and Rodriguez is one such player. And with him in the side, Everton are a team to be taken seriously.
All hail James Rodriguez, the King in Blue!