Rafael Benitez tight-lipped over futures of James Rodriguez and Moise Kean

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Everton boss Rafael Benitez has refused to be drawn on whether he thinks James Rodriguez and Moise Kean will still be at the club come the transfer deadline.

Both Colombia playmaker Rodriguez and Italy forward Kean have been linked with moves away from Goodison Park this summer.

While speaking on Twitch this week, Rodriguez, who was unavailable for the 3-1 home victory over Southampton last Saturday as he was isolating, admitted he did not know who the Toffees were set to face this weekend.

Everton are at Leeds on Saturday, and when Benitez was asked on Friday at his pre-match press conference if he expected Rodriguez and Kean to still be at Everton when the window closes, he said: “Until the end of August, until the last day, the last minute, (there will be) a lot of speculation.

“We have to keep working with the players that are here and available, and that is it, the only thing that I can say.”

Subsequently pushed as to whether Rodriguez was in his plans, Benitez said: “Until August 31, yes he’s in my plans.”

While Rodriguez will miss out again at the weekend, Kean can be called upon after sitting out last Saturday’s victory, the club’s first competitive match under Benitez.

Everton had a number of players unavailable going into that contest – Benitez had said prior to it that five would miss out as they were isolating, with Rodriguez among them.

On Friday Benitez reported that of those who had not been involved in the squad for the Southampton match, only Kean was available.

The Spaniard said: “Still we have some issues, but Moise Kean is the one that is coming back at the moment.”

Benitez added when asked again about Kean: “Until August 31 we have to be sure the players give everything, and then after that we will know exactly which is in our squad and then we will concentrate on that.

“At the moment he has been training these days, he was OK, and he is another option we have up front, so I’m happy with the idea that he can give us a hand if it is necessary.”

Ben Godfrey, Andre Gomes, Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Gylfi Sigurdsson were the others not in the squad for the Southampton game.

Rodriguez said on Twitch he thought he would start to train again on Monday.

Meanwhile, Everton have signed veteran goalkeeper Andy Lonergan on a deal to the end of the season.

The 37-year-old, who was with Liverpool in 2019-20 and last term had spells at Stoke and West Brom, has been brought in to provide back-up to Jordan Pickford and Asmir Begovic.

The move comes with Harry Tyrer having suffered a quadriceps injury and fellow young stopper Joao Virginia set to depart Everton on loan.

Benitez said: “We have an injury to Tyrer, the young keeper, and then we signed Andy Lonergan as a back-up, as a player that can give us some experience, because we needed to sort out this problem just in case.

“So we have a new signing – but it is a player that maybe nobody was expecting!”

Begovic joined Everton in July, while the other new additions the club have made since last season are Demarai Gray and Andros Townsend.

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