James Rodriguez has been named in Colombia’s squad for the first time in 12 months.
The former Real Madrid playmaker, who left Everton to join Qatari side Al-Rayyan in September, won the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup and had been a mainstay in Colombia’s side since.
However, with injuries plaguing his time at Goodison Park, restricting him to 26 appearances in all competitions, James was not selected for this year’s Copa America squad.
James did not take the news well, disputing the claim made by Colombia’s coaching staff that he was not fit enough to be relied upon.
However, coach Reinaldo Rueda still took a hard-line approach and, with James not featuring at all for Everton under Rafael Benitez this season prior to his switch to Qatar, the 30-year-old was left out for World Cup qualifiers in September and October.
Colombia went unbeaten across those six matches, though they won just once. After scoring his first goal for Al-Rayyan in a 4-2 win over Al Sailiya towards the end of October, James has earned a recall for this month’s games against Brazil and Paraguay. His last appearance for his country was in a 6-1 defeat to Ecuador in November 2020.
Though injuries did limit his game time, James was a creative fulcrum for Everton last term, creating 54 chances, placing him second in the squad behind Gylfi Sigurdsson (60).
James led the way for Everton with chances created from open play (38) and when it came to crafting big chances (14).
Per 90 minutes played, James forged 0.56 big chances in the Premier League, putting him just below Jack Grealish and Bruno Fernandes (0.58), ranking sixth in the competition among those who played 20 or more matches.
He finished the season with six goals and eight assists and when he was fit and available, James proved his quality for Carlo Ancelotti’s team.
However, he has had a stuttering start to life in Qatar. After taking time to get up to full speed, he made his debut in disappointing fashion, with Laurent Blanc’s side going down 3-0 to Al Duhail.
Following his goal against Al Sailiya, James was then sent off for dissent in his third appearance for Al-Rayyan, having reacted angrily to a decision going against him.
James subsequently posted a photo to his official Instagram account, showing evidence of facial injuries sustained during the match.
“After the blow I suffered in the game I am already a little better,” James wrote. “As you can see, my nose and jaw suffered a bit in the blow.
“The rib took the worst part but nothing to worry about. All of this is part of our job. A few more days and I’ll be training again.”
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