James Rodriguez’s bizarre time at Everton has finally come to an end.
When he arrived at Goodison Park 12 months ago, it sparked mass fanfare in the blue half of Merseyside. This was a remarkable signing, a terrific coup, especially on a free transfer.
He was a great presence in his opening campaign in England, contributing to ten Premier League goals.
Sadly, his time at the club has ended rather sadly. Rodriguez missed the end of last campaign after complaining with fatigue.
The Colombian didn’t see eye to eye with Rafa Benitez either and never featured under the Spaniard when he became the club’s manager.
It was a sad eventuality for a player clearly blessed with magical football ability. His time in England waned and it came to a point where James didn’t even know who Everton’s next opponents were.
A late move to Porto in the transfer window fell through but in a deal that suits all parties; he has now departed to Qatari side Al-Rayyan.
This is highly beneficial for the Toffees as it not only gets a high earner off the wage bill but also opens up opportunities for others.
Benitez has been keen to hand chances to young faces with Jarrad Branthwaite featuring under the 61-year-old and Anthony Gordon shining in the Carabao Cup. He topped the creation charts against QPR, for instance, providing four key passes.
However, one player who should benefit from James’ departure from Goodison is Charlie Whitaker.
The attacking midfielder is just 17 years of age and has never been seen in the Everton first-team but he’s a player who has similar traits.
Of course, it’s difficult to compare him completely to the Colombia star because he was once an elite playmaker.
Yet, Whitaker feels like one of the most natural long-term heirs that Everton have internally.
He is a central midfielder by trade but has been moved further forward by David Unsworth in recent times. All of that has culminated in him finding the net on a more regular basis.
Whitaker is clearly one of the brightest academy sparks at Finch Farm this term and you only need to assess words from Unsworth to understand why.
He said: “We have tried to get someone up there with him and he has been sensational. He is a great trainer, great to work with and a great lad. He does the hardest thing in the game, which is score goals, and he makes it look really easy.
Unsworth continued: “For the size of him, he is good in the air, he is brave, we just need him to link play and the future is bright for him. I’m not getting over-excited, because you can’t, it is too early. But the signs are very, very good.”
Rodriguez has enjoyed a habit of scoring goals throughout his career while the way he links the play is certainly his strongest trait.
Whitaker still has some improvement to make in that regard but if he continues to improve at the rapid rate he is right now, Benitez will simply have to turn to him at senior level.