James is one of the nation’s biggest footballing stars, having earned 80 senior caps to date and represented his country at two World Cups – memorably winning the Golden Boot en route to the quarter-finals in Brazil in 2014 – and three previous Copa America tournaments.
However, the 29-year-old struggled with calf injuries throughout his maiden campaign in English football in 2020/21, missing all but one of Everton’s final six matches of the season.
James would have nevertheless expected to still play an important role for Colombia in a tournament that they were due to co-host alongside Argentina before those plans were scuppered by ongoing protests in the country.
However, on Friday it was confirmed that he would be withdrawn from Reinaldo Rueda’s squad for the Copa and upcoming 2022 World Cup qualifiers against Peru and Argentina after medical examinations determined that James was not “at the optimum level of fitness to compete”.
“The coaching staff of the Colombia Senior Men’s National Team inform that the player James Rodriguez has been withdrawn from the qualifying games against Peru and Argentina for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the CONMEBOL Copa America 2021,” read an official statement from the Colombian Football Federation.
“In recent days, the midfielder underwent medical examinations, which determined that he is not at the optimum level of fitness to compete, which is why he will not be able to join the group of players called up by [head coach] Reinaldo Rueda for the aforementioned matches and the South American tournament.
“The coach and his staff regret not being able to call up James Rodriguez on this occasion and hope that soon the midfielder will be able to be part of a squad list, representing our country with the same professionalism and stature as he has always done.”
James responded to the news with his own statement released via social media in which he expressed his shock and sadness while insisting that he would be fit for the Copa America.
“It was with surprise that I received the statement from the backroom team saying they would not be able to count on me and wishing me a speedy recovery,” the player wrote on Twitter.
“I have already recovered and sacrificed a lot.”
He added: “It filled me with great disappointment. Not having the confidence of the technical staff causes me a huge sadness.”