Quiet a lot of footballers catch the global eye, fail to make headway, and vanish into oblivion. They take a tumble and languish in the simmering cauldron that is international football. Those who do not wither away that easily, become overnight star attractions. Few such people are humble and level-headed. James David Rodriguez Rubio is one such footballer.
The 23 year old Colombian midfielder who hails from Cucuta, Colombia is timid and truly one of a kind in a generation which has fond affiliations to the glamour and glitziness that a sport like football offers. Ranked as one of the best young players the world over, he is lauded for his technique, style of play, tactical awareness and versatility. Such is his caliber that he is often compared to the legend Carlos Valderrama, his compatriot.
2014 was strewn with rumours that Angel Di Maria, the engineer of Real Madrid’s UEFA Champions League victorious campaign, would be leaving the Spanish capital. Fans and aficionados could not bear seeing the back of the Argentine maestro. Hence, it was unsurprising that when Florentino Perez, the wealthy club President of Real, announced the signing of young James from the French club AS Monaco for an astronomical transfer fee of 80 million euro, a majority of supporters were left unimpressed.
Give the task of replacing Di Maria
Critics and football pundits scoffed at the idea that the Colombian prodigy could match Di Maria’s potential. This, despite a singlehanded effort from James, taking his motherland to the last eight of the FIFA World Cup (they would eventually lose out to Brazil), a nation which was traumatized by their ace striker Radamel Falcao’s injury, which ruled him out of the finals. He had emerged the top scorer too, winning the Golden Boot, with a tally of six goals, one of them, a stunning left-foot volley which would get him the Puskas Award at the FIFA Annual Awards later.
While Madridistas were lamenting Di Maria’s exit James had expressed his heartfelt affection and passion for the club. The famous No. 10 shirt, earlier adorned by club greats like Puskas, Figo and Zidane, his idol, only fuelled his ambitions.
The start of the season saw James quickly adapting to the way Madrid played and taking over the mantle as Real’s creative fulcrum. Plaudits were sung and the harshest critics were spellbound with his consistent performances.
He fitted into the physical playing style like a glove, and was a regular name in Carlo Ancelotti’s starting XI, owing to his capacity to play in the centre, wing, false 9 or the No.10 position. The complete package that he is, he boasts of immense work rate, thus meeting the demands of the hard-to-please Santiago Bernabeu faithful. They could also often see James charging back to retain the ball and stabilizing the defence, something which modern footballers rarely do.
His debut season which saw him score no less than 17 goals and 15 assists in the 2014/15 season is testimony to the fact that he is a vital cog in the Madrid machinery. With age on his side and five more years up in his contract, he promises to accomplish so much more.
Although it was a largely forgettable season for the club domestically and in Europe, James outshone most of his teammates and lived up to his hefty price tag. Di Maria’s absence was barely visible, as he quietly went about his business, effortlessly replacing the Argentine, kudos to his discipline and hard work.
From a luxury buy he has grown to become a crucial entity, indispensable for success at the Bernabeu. The kid who was reportedly named after James Bond, the fictional spy, had truly arrived and achieved instantaneous success in the sport’s most hallowed portal, incidentally also becoming Google’s most searched athlete in 2014.
His ambidexterity and youthful exuberance draw fans in both on and off the field. James portrays an incisive display of offence, facilitating rapid and dangerous counterattacks. Thus far, the Colombian hero has proved to be a more-than-able successor to Di Maria, soaking up the humongous pressure involved in being a Madridista.
His temperament and keen penchant for success bode well for the Los Blancos in the years ahead. It will, however, be enchanting to see if he can replicate or improve his industrious performances in the seasons to come. But above all that, James Rodriguez is here to stay and he is literally a Galactico on the rise.