Everton star James Rodriguez said he only joined the club to be reunited with manager Carlo Ancelotti.
Speaking exclusively with ESPN Colombia, the Colombia international said playing for Italian boss was key to the decision to join the Premier League side after their stints together at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
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“I’ll say it with all sincerity that if Carlo weren’t here, I wouldn’t have come. I’ll say it with all my heart, he was one of the reasons for which I came,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez’s time at Goodison Park started brightly, having scored five goals in 18 league matches, but the 29-year-old been sidelined since February with a calf injury. The Toffees sit in eighth place with 46 points, tied with city rivals Liverpool, and are in the mix for a either Champions League or Europa League berth.
“I started to get to know the club, how they work, how they want to work, win things, play in Europe,” Rodriguez said. “The fact that Carlo is here was fundamental to come, where I am learning every day.
“In these remaining nine [league] matches, I want to perform well, I had some physical problems for a month, but I have overcome them and it’s my goal to get a European spot, hopefully in Champions League,” he said.
Rodriguez added that he nearly joined Atletico Madrid instead of Everton, but that Real blocked the deal.
“It was nearly a done deal to got to Atletico, I spoke with [Diego] Simeone, he said I could be important, and [Real] didn’t let me go. [Real president] Florentino Perez knew that with [Zinedine] Zidane that I wouldn’t play much. It was a bad year, I wanted to come to Everton to play and show what I can do,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez also added that he is looking forward to the Copa America this summer, which will be co-hosted by Colombia and Argentina. The Cafeteros are looking to win their second South American title, after winning the 2001 edition as hosts. Colombia also hope to secure a World Cup berth after luring Reinaldo Rueda from Chile in hopes of turning around their qualifying campaign.
“He is a great person, a great coach,” Rodriguez said of Rueda. “The players that have been there a long time must help him to make things easier.”