Rafa Benitez has refused to rule out James Rodriguez leaving Everton, via quotes by Goal, amid interest from Sevilla and AC Milan.

The Spaniard has been speaking to the media and was asked for his thoughts on Rodriguez’s situation. Benitez refused to be drawn on if the Colombian still has a future at Goodison Park. Instead, he hailed the midfielder’s ability, but also questioned his fitness.

Rodriguez’s Merseyside career has been enshrouded with doubt since Carlo Ancelotti left for Real Madrid. The Daily Mail reported he was prepared to follow the Italian in quitting the Toffees, and that his agent, Jorge Mendes, was speaking with several clubs.

Photo by Douglas DeFelice – Everton/Everton FC via Getty Images

Mendes even offered Rodriguez around Europe for €10m (£8.5m), per Tuttosport. A fee Milan warmed to, as Antena2 added the Rossoneri would pay it and give him a €6m-a-year (£100k-p/w) contract. A slight increase on the midfielder’s £90k-p/w Blues deal.

Milan could face competition from Sevilla to sign Rodriguez from Everton, though. Eurosport claim the La Liga outfit also want the 30-year-old, and the Toffees would not stop him leaving. Now, Benitez has refused to rule out Rodriguez exiting Everton.

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“At the beginning of the pre-season, it is not easy,” Benitez said. “I think you can see he has the quality on the ball, but still his fitness is not where we are expecting. So, it is normal at this time. So, we will see. Obviously, we have more training sessions and more games.

“So, we will see how he is going on and every player. It depends on them, if they can make a difference or not. But at the moment, it is seeing how they progress and how they can improve. But nobody can argue about the quality of James.”

Is Benitez accepting Rodriguez wants to leave Everton?

Benitez refusing to come out and say with 100 per cent certainty that Rodriguez is staying may suggest he already accepts the midfielder wants to leave Everton, and is likely to.

It will be disappointing for the Toffees if the 80-cap international does want to leave Goodison Park already. Rodriguez shone when on form under Ancelotti and ended the term with the club’s second-most assists (9) across all competitions.

He also struck home six goals in 26 games, with an ability to bounce back from his – fairly regular – injuries. Benitez will now likely have to hope a suitor bids for Rodriguez in time for Everton to sign a replacement. As they will miss his ability to unpick locks like few players.