Rafa Benitez has overseen an impressive start to the season as the new manager of Everton.
There were significant worries over the Spaniard’s credentials when he first entered Goodison Park but those fears have been quashed with aplomb.
Everton have gathered seven points from their opening three matches but there is one controversy that continues to rage on.
That surrounds one of Benitez’s former players; James Rodriguez.
The 61-year-old took charge of Rodriguez during his spell at Real Madrid but it doesn’t seem as though their relationship has blossomed.
He wants to leave Merseyside behind and came so close to departing for good this summer. However, after failing to seal a switch away, he’s now back in training for the Toffees as they prepare to face Burnley.
James has immense quality in his locker, something that ten Premier League goal involvements last term testifies.
Yet, does he really deserve to play for Everton again? Arguably not. Benitez will presumably give him a second chance at Goodison but if he continues to strop, there are young players waiting in the wings.
One of them is Charlie Whitaker. The attacking midfielder joined Everton at the age of 12 and has risen through the academy ranks with some stellar contributions.
He scored six times for the U18 side but since making an early transition to the U23s, has been catching the eye even more.
A central midfielder by trade, David Unsworth has found a new position for him as a second striker, picking up small pockets of space in the hole and carving out goal scoring opportunities.
Speaking about the 17-year-old back in May, Unsworth commented: “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.
The boss 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.”
Versatile, dynamic and exciting, Whitaker isn’t the first attacking midfielder to come through the production line.
You only need to think of Kieran Dowell, a similarly tricky player who failed to make the grade at Everton and is now plying his trade for Norwich after several loan spells away.
However, if James does depart, then an opportunity to thrive in the first-team set-up has to come Whitaker’s way.
His ability to transition with such perfection through the age groups at youth level, coupled with his ability to score goals, makes him an appealing option for Benitez.