When James Rodriguez scored a cracker of a goal in the 2014 World Cup against Uruguay, he would've felt like he was on the top of the world. He had stepped up in the absence of Radamel Falcao, and had been deemed as one of the most promising prospects at the end of the World Cup.
The Colombian playmaker was technically gifted, silky in his dribbling, and had an eye for a killer pass. Having been linked with top clubs like Real Madrid and Manchester United back then, James wouldn't have predicted he'd be playing at Goodison Park at the end of the decade.
In one of the strangest signings of the transfer window, James Rodriguez agreed to a €25 million move to Everton to re-join his old boss Carlo Ancelotti. The transfer had the label 'washed-up' all over it. The player who was once deemed to be Cristiano Ronaldo's successor never really reached the potential that he once promised.
It seemed like James Rodriguez was willing to wind down his playing career at a club which did not have the highest expectations in the Premier League, nor the shiny trophy cabinet of his former clubs. But early signs in the league suggest that Rodriguez is not there just to while away his career, but rather to elevate the Merseyside club, which has not seen success since the 70s.
Carlo Ancelotti has guided the Toffees to a flawless start in the first month of the season, scoring a perfect 12 points out of the possible 12 in the first four games. It is also clear that the current success enjoyed by the club owes it to the good form of the Colombian playmaker. He has been lively on the field, finding spaces to exploit and executing killer passes which can split a defence into two.
The newly re-invented Everton side, which has been bolstered with the arrival of players like Allan from Napoli and Doucoure from Watford, has given the club a much-needed makeover. For the first time in decades, it looks like Everton can be a contender for the top 6, and maybe even aim for a top 4 finish.
The Colombian has so far been involved in 5 goals in the past 4 games, with 3 goals and 2 assists. He plays as the vital cog in a well-oiled Everton machine, and has averaged 52 passes a game. His recent brace against Brighton & Hove Albion reinforces the idea that James Rodriguez is here to cause problems in the Premier League.
How Carlo Ancelotti revitalised James Rodriguez
But what exactly has the Italian manager done to revitalise James Rodriguez and make him a force to be reckoned with?
It is relevant to point out this isn't the first time that Carlo Ancelotti has worked with the Colombian superstar. He clearly knew how to bring the best out of him during his stint as the Real Madrid manager, which was evident as the Colombian had been involved in 35 goals (17 goals, 18 assists) during the 46 games he had played for him. This was the most productive James Rodriguez had ever been since he blew up in popularity in 2014.
Having already coached him before, it was clear that the duo understood each other very well which has helped Rodriguez to waltz into the first team.
Everton have lined up in a 4-3-3 fluid formation so far, which seems to centre itself around James Rodriguez as the tempo setter. James has been given freedom to drift into pockets of spaces to receive the ball and in return try to break upon a tightly-knit defence with his vision. Playing as a playmaker from the right wing, is arguably the role which brings the best out of the Colombian.
With Allan and Doucoure shielding the back line in case of a loose pass or two, James Rodriguez has the confidence to try out risky passes which can turn a game on it's head. Dominic Calvert-Lewin's recent upturn in form has also helped raise confidence in the squad as the poacher striker is always waiting to reward his midfielders for their vision and hard work by directing the ball into the net.
The midfielder will find it harder to find spaces and break open defences as the season progresses. Opposition teams will be taking note of his style of play, and will try to restrict him from seeing much of the ball. But from what we've seen so far, it feels like Everton have done themselves a mountain of good by signing this veteran player to inspire their otherwise dull midfield.
It will be interesting to see how James Rodriguez continues to adapt to the Premier League with the passage of time. Early signs suggest that he has what it takes to perform at the top level, but the unpredictable nature of the Premier League may have different plans.Published 05 Oct 2020, 17:27 IST