Everton boss Carlo Ancelotti has played down a potential reunion with James Rodriguez at Goodison Park, insisting the midfielder is likely to remain at Real Madrid for at least one more year.
James' future at Santiago Bernabeu has been the subject of much speculation in recent months.
The 28-year-old returned to Madrid last summer after a two-year loan spell at Bayern Munich, with a view to fighting for a regular spot in Zinedine Zidane's starting XI.However, the Colombia international has only featured in 14 games in all competitions for the Blancos in 2019-20, and has just entered the final year of his current contract.
He didn't even make the bench for Madrid's trip to Athletic Club on Sunday, with Zidane claiming post-match that the playmaker "wanted to be left out because of his own reasons".
Madrid paid £68 million ($86m) to bring James to the Bernabeu from Monaco in 2014, but now look set to cut their losses on a player who has yet to live up to his full potential.
A possible move to the Premier League has been mooted for the Colombian, with Manchester United and Everton among those being credited with an interest in his services.
Ancelotti was the man who signed James at Madrid six years ago, and although he remains a keen admirer of a former charge, the Toffees manager thinks a summer transfer is doubtful.
“James Rodriguez? I like him a lot as a player. When I left Madrid, James Rodriguez followed me to Munich," Ancelotti told The Guardian. "But he followed me as a rumour to Napoli and now he is following me to Everton as a rumour.
"I have to be honest, I like him a lot, but he is a Real Madrid player and I think he will still be a Real Madrid player.”
Despite playing down a move for James, Ancelotti is hoping to add to his Everton squad when the transfer window reopens, as he looks to create a team capable of challenging at the top end of the Premier League.
“We need good players and the players that we are going to sign will be good players,” the Italian tactician added. “It doesn’t matter whether they are young or old; with experience or without experience. It is important to have good players.
“It is important to improve the character and personality of the team. I can improve their knowledge on the training ground day by day but the mentality of the squad can also improve to compete better with the top-six teams in the Premier League.”