The return of Carlo Ancelotti as Real Madrid manager has left Everton without their “Hollywood” manager and thrown the long-term plans of Goodison owner Farhad Moshiri into disarray after the billionaire businessman scored quite a coup by landing the former Juventus, AC Milan, Chelsea, PSG, Bayern Munich and Napoli manager in the first place. In the shorter term, the Italian’s move will affect one of his most loyal players and another of Everton’s jewels in the crown, James Rodríguez, who moved to the Premier League largely to be reunited with his footballing father.
Ancelotti’s latest change of club represents the third time that he has left a team that still contained the Colombia midfielder, only for James to follow in his footsteps, first to Bayern Munich and then to Everton after their first spell together at Real Madrid in 2014-15.
Ancelotti and James click at Real Madrid
That season remains James’ finest campaign for Real Madrid, who signed him from Monaco for €75m after a stellar World Cup. Under the Italian at the Bernabéu, James scored 17 goals and provided 18 assists but could not help Madrid to a major title in his debut season, with Ancelotti sacked at the end of the season after finishing third in LaLiga.
Under Rafa Benítez and Zinedine Zidane, James lost his starting role in the side and after James starred in the Frenchman’s so-called Plan B raft of reserve players that proved key to securing the 2016-17 double, Ancelotti asked the Colombian to join him at Bayern Munich.
However, the reunion was short-lived as James suffered a muscle injury shortly after arriving in Bavaria and Ancelotti was sacked in September 2017 with the midfielder having managed only 237 minutes under his mentor.
“I am not worried about the physicality. If I was worried about that I would sign Usain Bolt, not James,” Ancelotti said when James arrived on the blue half of Merseyside last summer. “James is not the fastest player in the world but he has a lot of quality. We have to use him to show his quality.”
“We don’t play a different sport in the Premier League, it’s still football. James won’t have any problems adapting,” Ancelotti said after the Colombian’s debut.
Early signs that Ancelotti was correct were on show when he scored twice and provided an assist against Brighton and he also shone in the first Merseyside derby of the season, assisting Everton’s opening goal in an eventual 2-2 draw.
Calf problems restricted James to 26 appearances in all competitions in his debut season, during which he contributed six goals and five assists in the league as Everton’s promising start fizzled out later in the campaign.
The Colombian is under contract at Goodison until 2022 with the option to extend for another year. It remains to be seen if Ancelotti will try to reunite once more at Madrid in an attempt to recreate the form James displayed during his first spell in the Spanish capital.