James Rodriguez: What should Real Madrid do with him?
The number 10 jersey at Real Madrid is possibly one of the most coveted shirts in world football. One can only imagine the overwhelming emotion James Rodriguez experienced, when he was presented with the shirt during his unveiling in Madrid.
45,000 fans had gathered to welcome their latest galactico, journalists were on their toes and social media was abuzz with hysteria. Florentino Perez had brought home the star of the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
The young, creative-minded attacker had cost the club a pretty penny. A sanctioned amount of about £63 million was transferred to AS Monaco to secure this hugely talented footballer, making him the fourth most expensive player in football history.
With stars in his eyes, James set foot on the green grass of the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Little did he know that 18 months later, he might be in the eye of the storm.
James Rodriguez was irrefutably successful in his first season at Real Madrid. He played in 29 league games, scoring on 13 occasions and assisting 13 times. James started regularly under Carlo Ancelotti while making just two substitute appearances.
His second season though, has turned into something of a disaster. With merely 12 appearances in La Liga (four of which were as a substitute), James found himself becoming a fringe player in a squad full of superstars. Considered to be one of the primary factors triggering the sacking of Rafael Benitez, James instantly transformed from being a hero to a rebel.
After scoring two spectacular goals against Real Betis in late August, James suffered a thigh injury during international duty, which kept him off the pitch for seven long weeks. He noticeably took time to return to full fitness as Isco began to consolidate his place in the starting line-up.
To make matters worse, Benitez was adamant that James had put on some unnecessary kilos. James though, was of a different opinion and went to great lengths to prove his fitness – from scoring goals to displaying his fine, muscular physique on social networking sites. However, Isco continued to get the nod ahead of Madrid’s no.10.
James was constantly played out of position, often deeper than he prefers to play. Benitez insisted on grit and grunt rather than craft and guile, an approach that alienated James along with several other players at the club.
James Rodriguez has not scored for Madrid since November 2015
Consequently, his form suffered, having scored just three goals in the league. Little has changed under Zinedine Zidane. James continues to make appearances off the bench, looking haughty and disinterested.
The situation isn’t isolated to Madrid alone. James’ performances are not strikingly different for the Colombian National Team. While he set the World Cup alight by scoring six goals in five games, James was dreadfully disappointing in the Copa America. The national team manager – Jose Pekerman took to the media to reveal his anxieties.
While speaking to El Tiempo, Pekerman said, "He must be patient. He is unbeatable. He meets all the criteria. We all want him to be a starter and to be in that role with the national team as well. He needs to know that we need him to stay positive." Zidane’s obsession with the famed BBC – Benzema, Bale and Cristiano has apparently not been well received by James, further adding to his frustration.
If the breakdown in relationships and communication was not sufficient to cause unnecessary chaos, James landed himself into trouble with the police in the New Year. Additionally, reports of his troubled marriage with Daniela Ospina and rumours of an adulterous relationship with Russian model Helga Lovekaty coupled with a heavy party lifestyle seems to have thrown James’ life into an unstoppable spin.
The gifted playmaker has lofty ambitions, angling to become one of Madrid’s highest-paid players. To ensure the upward trajectory into the highest bracket of payment at the club, James must re-establish himself as a regular in the first team. Standing in his way is a certain Spaniard by the name Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez, commonly known as Isco.
Eyebrows were raised upon James’ arrival, as Madrid possessed a perfectly competent fantasista in Isco. The former Malaga midfielder has a similar skill-set and is of a comparable age. Not an established goalscorer by trade, Isco possessed the unique ability to move the ball forward and connect the midfield with the attack.
Isco’s versatility and utility gave him the edge over James, a trend that appears to be persisting with the new manager. Isco’s sustained, prolonged dominance in the first-team might cement James’ position on the bench.