Rodriguez one of five players isolating

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August 14, 2021
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    Everton's James Rodriguez looks on during a matchJames Rodriguez played in last Saturday's friendly against Manchester United at Old Trafford

    James Rodriguez is one of five Everton players who are isolating because of coronavirus issues and will miss Saturday's game against Southampton.

    The Colombia midfielder, 30, is yet to play in front of Everton fans since he signed in September 2020 because of pandemic crowd restrictions.

    Everton boss Rafael Benitez said: "We have some players that are in isolation now, so we have to be very careful.

    "Some players have to be at home and [James] is one of them."

    The five absentees are understood to be isolated cases rather than an outbreak at the club, which will welcome a full house back to Goodison Park for the first time since a 1-1 draw with Manchester United on 1 March 2020.

    But it is not clear if they have coronavirus or are isolating because they have been deemed as close contacts.

    Benitez confirmed that forward Richarlison, who returned from the Toyko Olympics after winning gold with Brazil, and striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin would be available.

    But he admitted he was concerned about how players might be affected after restrictions around the country had been relaxed.

    "The main concern for me and for all the managers are the rules around the country so everybody can go outside and do what they want," he said. "After we have too many controls, it's good.

    "Then we can see some issues and problems with Covid-19. We have to manage in the best way possible, we are making an effort to be sure we have some control but it's very difficult to have full control when everybody around has some freedom."

    Rodriguez is 'one of our best players'

    The long-term future of Rodriguez has been the subject of much debate since he was reported to have said he felt like Sergio Aguero moving to Barcelona and then watching Lionel Messi leave.

    Rodriguez joined Everton last summer when Carlo Ancelotti was in charge, having played under the Italian at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, but then saw him leave to re-join Real in June.

    Benitez played the Colombian during their recent tour to Florida and during the friendly defeat by Manchester United last Saturday.

    But asked about the forward's future, the former Liverpool boss said: "I have had my conversation with him at the beginning and he knows my idea.

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

    Asked if understood why fans would be keen to see him in the flesh for the first time, the Everton boss added: "I understand that the fans they went to see the best players possible on the pitch to win the game and James is one of them.

    "As a manager you try to put a team on the pitch that can win games, so I am not checking the name of the player, the popularity or how many followers they have in their social media, it's just to be sure that they can do the job."

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