first_img The 26-year-old forward has just one senior cap and has only recently returned to action following a serious knee injury that threatened his career. He scored his first goal in almost 17 months to pull Saints level in their 1-1 draw against FC Midtjylland in the opening leg of their Europa League play-off and is likely to start the return match on Thursday. “At the moment I’m just concentrating week by week to get as much match fitness and sharpness as I can and try and take confidence from each game. It’s a case of taking it slowly and hopefully it comes. “Of course, it was the highlight of my career to go and represent my country. It’s the best thing for a player to do that.” Although he admitted the thought of an international return was not at the forefront of his mind, Rodriguez did concede it was something that helped him through his lengthy spell on the sidelines. “There were times in my injury period that were really hard. If you aim high then the sky’s the limit and that is what keeps you going through the tough times,” he said. “There’s no limit on what you can do. To reach the highest possible thing you can in football is a good marker.” When pushed on Rodriguez’s fitness, Koeman refused to put a timescale on when the striker would be back to his best. “Difficult to put it in time,” he added. “I’d say its four or five weeks. He needs rhythm of playing the game, the freshness, the sharpness he mentioned. You get sharpness by playing games. He needs time.” Koeman also said he has explained to Rodriguez how the club want to manage his comeback. “I spoke several times to Jay,” he said. “And we speak about his situation. To give example, the day after last week the Thursday he stayed inside to recover and he wasn’t outside with the rest of the team, because we know he needs time after 70-80 minutes he didn’t play that Thursday 90 minutes. We have to take care about his fitness. “We like to have Jay in two months really on his level. Then normally he will start every game and play 90 minutes, because it’s important player for the team.” With Hodgson delaying his squad announcement for the European Championship qualifiers against San Marino and Switzerland until Sunday, the former Burnley forward will have another chance to impress the England manager in Denmark. Leicester’s Jamie Vardy is the only striker from the last international squad to have scored a Premier League goal so far this season, but Koeman feels Rodriguez needs more time with Southampton before he is ready to add to the cap he collected against Chile in November 2013. ‘In my opinion it’s too soon,” said the Dutchman. “That’s one of the reasons that he is not playing or starting Thursday, Sunday, Thursday, Sunday. It takes time after so long a period outside the pitch and working hard to come back. He needs time to come back for the national team as well. ‘It takes time, this is normal. I’m already a little bit surprised how he did last week on Thursday because he was really on a high level. It’s normal he is still not 100 per cent. “When he’s 100 per cent and when he is on his level for sure he will be an interesting player for the national squad, but don’t put too much pressure on Jay. It will come, it takes time, first concentrate on Southampton. If he is 100 per cent then he will be sure he will be one of the targets for the national team.” Rodriguez, who came on for the final 12 minutes of Sunday’s 0-0 draw at Watford, will be hoping for a starting place in Denmark on Thursday night and admits an England recall is something he will be striving toward. “That’s a dream and that’s what I aspire to,” he said. Southampton boss Ronald Koeman has warned England counterpart Roy Hodgson it is too early for Jay Rodriguez to return to the national team. Press Associationlast_img