La Liga

Rafa Benitez denies having rift with James Rodriguez

Real Madrid coach Rafa Benitez has dismissed suggestions that James Rodriguez is unhappy at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 24-year-old has played the full 90 minutes in just one game across all competitions so far this season – partially due to injuries – and was substituted in Madrid’s most recent La Liga games against Barcelona and Eibar.

A number of recent reports have subsequently suggested the Colombia international does not feel valued by Benitez and is considering his options.

Nevertheless, the Madrid coach has insisted he does not have a problem with James, adding the attacking midfielder is slowly getting back to his best after overcoming a muscular problem.

“James has my full support and confidence. There is no problem with him,” Benitez said at a news conference.

“He is an excellent player. But he has been out of action for almost two months due to injury. The more he trains and plays, the closer he gets to being the James we all know.

“James is an excellent player, a very good footballer. But this is Madrid. There is a lot of competition for places. Like I have said before, though, I was very happy with his performance against Eibar.

“I always want to see him at his best. I want to see the best James each week.”

Benitez somewhat surprisingly opted to bench Karim Benzema against Eibar after he had featured for the full 90 minutes in the defeat versus Barcelona, but the Madrid coach was quick to stress the Frenchman remains a key figure.

“We see him as a fundamental player for Madrid. He is a great guy and has our full support. He is a real point of reference, because he helps other players improve,” Benitez added.

“We are bringing him slowly because he is so important to the team and only just coming back from injury.”

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