Colombia will be without star player James Rodriguez for their Copa America campaign, though the Everton playmaker claimed he has worked hard to be fit.
It was at an international tournament with Colombia that James rose to stardom. He won the Golden Boot at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, scoring six goals – including a sensational effort against Uruguay – as his country made it to the quarter-finals.
His performances in Brazil earned him a move to Real Madrid, though injuries have since plagued his spells with Los Blancos, Bayern Munich and Everton, and now his hopes of starring for Colombia once more have taken a blow.
The 29-year-old missed the end of Everton's campaign due to a persistent calf injury which has limited him to 26 appearances in all competitions this season, though James has still played more minutes (2,045) in 2020-21 than in four of the previous seven campaigns since his move to Monaco in 2013-14.
Carlo Ancelotti confirmed before Everton's defeat to Manchester City that James had returned to Colombia to link up with their squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Peru and Argentina, and the Copa America.
However, Colombia confirmed on Saturday (AEST) that James would be unable to take part.
"The coaching staff of the Colombia men's senior team reports that the player James Rodriguez has been called off for the games against Peru and Argentina for the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, and the CONMEBOL Copa America 2021," a statement on the Colombia team's official website read.
The statement went on to reveal that James, who netted six goals and provided eight assists in 2020-21, was "not at the optimal level of competition" following medical checks.
Yet it is a decision which has surprised and disappointed James, who says he has been focusing specifically on being fit for the tournament.
In a statement released on his official social media accounts, James said: "To the media, soccer fans and the general public I want to express my thoughts and feelings regarding the decision made by the coaching staff of the Colombian National Team regarding the next qualification dates and Copa America.
"I [am in] a recovery that is in its final part, in which I have taken enough time to fully integrate myself to the practice of football and in this way not affect my participation in the next commitments of our national team.
"With surprise I receive the statement from the coaching staff, stating that they do not count on me and wishing me a full recovery. A recovery that I have already made and in which I have sacrificed a lot.
"The above fills me with deep disappointment, for what it means to me playing for my country. Not receiving the trust of the coaching staff breaks with everything and causes me enormous pain.
"For my colleagues the best energy and best wishes. I will support with passion as always."
Despite managing 26 matches – and 24 of those coming as starts – James still finished as Everton's second-highest chance creator in all competitions, crafting 54 opportunities, trailing only Gylfi Sigurdsson (60), who made 18 more appearances. On average, he created two chances per 90 minutes.
James teed up 11 big chances, which Opta classify as opportunities from which a player would be expected to score, in the Premier League, with only 10 players managing a higher total.
Colombia face Peru and Argentina on June 3 and June 8, before starting their Copa America campaign against Ecuador on June 14.