Real Madrid's forgotten man James gets another chance
MADRID (Reuters) - Real Madrid's James Rodriguez, the golden boy of Colombian football, has struggled to establish himself at Real Madrid since he burst into the limelight at the 2014 World Cup.
However, with Toni Kroos, Alvaro Morata and Gareth Bale all out until next year with injuries, the door has opened for the 25-year-old winger to try to win over coach Zinedine Zidane.
James came under scrutiny on Saturday after failing to muster a shot on goal during his third Liga start of the season in the 2-1 win at Sporting Gijon but Zidane defended him.
"I don't consider him to be disinterested," the Frenchman said. "He played well, as did the others. He may lack a bit of rhythm, but I'm happy that he got some playing time".
James will be hoping to get more minutes under his belt at Barcelona in Saturday's first 'El Clasico' of the season after his career in Madrid started brightly but then faded.
Having won the Golden Boot as the World Cup's top scorer with six goals, the winger secured a dream 80 million euros ($84.71 million) move to the Spanish giants from Monaco.
He shone in his first season under Carlo Ancelotti, starting 46 games in all competitions, with 17 goals and the same number of assists, as he began to repay some of his transfer fee.
Since the Italian's departure, however, James has slumped from first choice at the Bernabeu to forgotten man.
In 2015-16 under Rafael Benitez and his replacement Zidane, James made 21 starts in all competitions, with eight goals and 10 assists, although a thigh injury limited his opportunities.
He was the subject of transfer speculation in the close season but, under contract until June 2020, he stayed put.
James' experience at Real is the opposite to his time at Monaco, where he endured a slow start in the 2013-14 campaign having joining the French side after three seasons at Porto.
He eventually scored nine goals with 12 assists to help Monaco finish runners-up to Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1.
At Real, the fierce competition did not seem to affect him in his first season but Zidane has Casemiro, Lucas Vazquez and Marco Asensio ahead of him in the pecking order.
He is only 20th in minutes played for Real this season with 570, having made 12 appearances in all competitions, scoring once with six assists. Saturday would be a good time to shine.
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(Reporting by Adriana Garcia; Editing by Ken Ferris)