James Rodriguez was arguably the biggest prospect in football back in 2014. He entered the 2014 WC as an exciting 22-year-old footballer and already was the best player for Monaco and Colombia. He ended the world cup by taking his country to the QFs while securing the golden boot and an outstanding goal against Uruguay that won him the pukas’ award. After the end of the WC, Colombia earned a £63 million move to RM, his “dream move” and became the golden boy with Florentino Perez choosing the young and inform Colombian over Angel Di Maria. James became the most expensive Colombian in history and was immediately a fan favourite. But now in August 2020, James is nowhere to be seen in the starting lineup with Zidane even preferring the “unprofessional and out of form” Gareth Bale over the Colombian golden boy.
So what happened to James Rodriguez?
James came to RM with a lot of expectations just like every galactico signing does. He was handed the No 10 jersey. There were a lot of great things from James. His vision, passing, composure, and agility were astonishing but his injuries, and lack of versatility is what stopped his growth. The first year with Carlo Ancelotti he went on to score 13 and assist 13. A very good start in the first season but he also did miss 2 month due to surgery on his broken foot. The injury woes didn’t end here. Following Carlo’s sacking and Benitez’s arrival, James wasn’t a part of the training team since the start due to his injuries. This put him down the pecking order and took some time for him to get back to the team regularly. But everything changed following Zidane’s arrival.
Zidane likes his midfielders to be more versatile on attack and defence. Players like Modric and Kroos are excellent at holding and progressing the ball and also very good at defensive work. Due to the work rates of midfielders like Modric, Kroos and Casemiro, they kept their name regularly on the starting 11 becoming Zidane’s goto midfield trio. A player like Isco, who isn’t as good defensively as Kroos and Modric, did develop and worked hard defensively but was also very versatile upfront. Starting from the left, centre, right, and sometimes even as the CM. Zidane started using Isco as a free-roaming midfielder who went everywhere on the field to collect the ball and create plays.
However, James wasn’t the right fit. He was very good at collecting, progressing, or distributing the ball but his lack of defensive work rate and versatility is what made Zidane go sour on him. Often Zidane would start James from the right and James failed to impress from the right as he was more comfortable operating from the centre of the park. Later, Zidane gave up on James. The Colombian failed to make the team sheet regularly and didn’t even feature on the bench in the 2017 UCL Final with Zidane rather having guys like Vazquez and Asensio off the bench instead of James.
Then, he left on loan to Bayern for the next 2 years, James impressed in the first year under Don Carlo and Jupp Heynckes where he got good playing time under them both. He scored a goal against Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, in a 2-2 draw which saw RM get to the UCL final. Following Kovac’s arrival at Bayern, James again struggled for game time. There were reports in Germany about James’ alleged fight with Niko Kovac. All this while James again dealt with lingering injury issues. It became hard for him to start back to back games on so many occasions.
Due to lack of consistency and durability, Kovac also gave up on him. Due to lack of game time, James again returned back to Madrid where he is in the same situation. Zidane again has James so far down the pecking order, picking younger guys like Vini, Rodrygo, Asensio, and Vazquez over James. James only played (or started) in one game post lockdown in a game against Real Sociedad in a 2-1 away win for Los Blancos. With reports of him rejecting to play under Zidane out, he is most likely out of the door at Madrid.
Now at 29, the Colombian midfielder needs to find a proper club for himself or stay at Real Madrid until his contract ends on June 2021. Real Madrid knows how good James is as they reportedly rejected a move to the city rivals, Atletico Madrid for the Colombian last season. Due to Covid-19 having a negative impact on finances of the clubs around the world and James having featured very few times, it will be highly unlikely for James to leave on a big move as he did from Porto and Monaco. So we see what happens to James’ career this summer and which club ultimately lands the highly talented and talent Colombian international.