James Rodriguez insists he formed an instant connection with Everton – but there is “more to come” from a player whose talent has lit up Goodison Park since joining from Real Madrid last September.
The Colombian forward is poised to return from injury when Everton resume their Premier League campaign next month, a timely boost for manager Carlo Ancelotti ahead of a season-defining period.
Everton’s home meeting with Crystal Palace on 5 April is the first of 10 games which will determine whether Ancelotti's team play European football next term.
James has seen enough in six months with Everton to convince him the Club boasts the ambition to operate on a par with illustrious former employers Real Madrid and Bayern Munich in the long-term.
Competing in continental competition in 2021/22 , says James, would represent a meaningful step towards that objective.
A calf problem has sidelined him since last month’s Merseyside derby, when James’ eye-of-a-needle pass released Richarlison to open the scoring in a 2-0 win.
He has scored five goals and assisted eight in 21 appearances for Everton.
“I’m reasonably happy with how I am playing,” said James.
“I think there’s more to come and I can hit some better form.
“But when I’ve performed well, it’s had a positive effect on the team.
“And that’s what I want: for the team to play good football and perform at a high standard.
“It’s been very easy to settle.
“I’ve come to a good club, a club that wants to achieve big things.
“I’m with a manager who knows exactly what I’m like. He knows how to relate to his players and staff.
“I get on fantastically well with him, just like a father and son.
“So, everything was very easy and straightforward.
“The football is a lot more physical [than other European leagues he’s experienced].
“There’s a lot of contact and you see fouls all the time.
“But these are all new experiences and I’m happy to be adding this one to my list.”
James signed for Everton after six years with Real Madrid, where he was signed by Ancelotti following a spectacular World Cup with Colombia.
The 29-year-old, who originally came to Europe with Porto shortly before his 19th birthday and also played for Monaco, won two Champions League titles at Madrid, in addition to two domestic championships.
He spent the two years from 2017 on loan with Bayern Munich – Ancelotti again the manager responsible for his capture – and claimed more silverware in the shape of two Bundesliga titles and a German cup.
“I always wanted to play in Europe and for big clubs and I’m grateful to have played for two of the biggest,” said James.
“Many of my hopes and dreams have come to fruition, but... when you fulfil your dreams, you want to achieve even more.
“So here we are, now, taking things step by step.
“Yes [Everton can attain the heights of Real and Bayern], why not?
“Firstly… we need to be fighting it out around the top of the league.
“The past two games haven’t been as good as we would have liked but that’s the Premier League.
“Every game is like a final… a battle.
“But that’s what we’re here for and you have to make sure you’re in good shape and strong mentally and prepared for everything, as it’s going to be tough."
James’ transfer to Everton united him with international teammate Yerry Mina, the defender signed from Barcelona in the summer of 2018.
“Yerry and I get on really well, I speak with him all the time and give him advice on lots of things,” continued James.
“He wants to learn and is very inquisitive.
“He’s always asking what I’m doing or how I do this that or the other.
“And, as a footballer, that’s a really good attribute to have.
“I’m a bit like that myself, I want to learn new stuff every day and I’m always curious about how I do things.
“Off the field as well as on it… things like your recovery and diet and sleep.
“That’s what I see in him… and that’s what we’re here for, isn’t it? To help one another out."