Why James Rodriguez needs to play the No. 10 role for Real Madrid
Brought in from AS Monaco after a sensational World Cup tournament for Colombia in Brazil, many bystanders and fans during his unveiling at the Bernabeu deemed this transfer as unnecessary and purely as a marketing move by Real Madrid President Florentino Perez.
He was automatically labelled as a shirt-seller by several Madridismos who were disappointed by the fact that Angel Di Maria, the man who fulfilled La Decima obsession, was about to depart Spain for England and the Colombian was replacing him in the starting XI.
In a matter of weeks, celebratory moods turned dull in the capital and manager Carlo Ancelotti was entrusted with the responsibility of adapting and reshuffling his midfield again. Lacking a genuine defensive midfielder in the centre of the pitch, the Italian fielded the new recruit alongside Luka Modric and another new signing Toni Kroos in his preferred three-man midfield.
Life in Spain started off steadily for the 23-year-old as he began to adjust in a team that already consisted some of football’s marquee names. Having made a name for himself in FC Porto and Monaco previously and being the standout star in those squads, the situation at Madrid was completely different as he had to establish himself and shine among a horde of superstars.
Massive pressure on James from the start especially after Di Maria exit
And with Di Maria’s departure to Manchester United, the pressure kept mounting as the whole world had their eyes fixated on the World Cup Golden Boot winner to see if he could replace the Argentine by replicating his international form or would he crumble under the burden of high expectations.
So began James’ career as a Galactico under Ancelotti, finding his feet with the likes of his idol Cristiano Ronaldo, French sensation Karim Benzema and the world’s costliest player Gareth Bale. And the Colombian settled in gradually growing in stature match by match as he linked up well with his mates.
Scoring incredible goals out of the blue has been one of his features and that, too, came in eventually as he started burying the ball in emphatic fashion – an attribute that gave him the edge over his predecessor, Di Maria. Executing his trades from the central midfield, the No. 10 managed to score 13 goals in 29 appearances overall and made 13 assists in the process which was a testament to his good debut season at the Bernabeu.
However, marred by minor injuries at crucial points last season coupled by the fact that the jersey read No. 10, but not his role in the squad, it did affect Real Madrid as a whole as the need to adapt and deploy Ancelotti’s tactics came at the expense of suppressing the former Monaco man’s qualities, who wasn’t allowed to unleash his full potential. Also, the presence of Isco, another high-profile name and world class youngster also meant competition for him as his place in the starting XI wasn’t wholly confirmed yet.
Bale not the best choice for the No. 10 role
Come the new 2015/16 season and unsurprisingly, major changes took place in the capital once again after Real Madrid followed up their Decima achievement with a trophyless campaign. Ancelotti was sacked and Perez brought in another proven Champions League managerial name Rafa Benitez to take over the hot seat at the Bernabeu. However, with the recent falterings at Inter Milan and Napoli, was this the right choice? A question that hovered over the Madridistas, who were clearly unsettled and unhappy over their President’s decision.
What changes could be instilled? How could Benitez improve Ancelotti’s doings?
Ahead of the new campaign, these are the answers every Real supporter are searching for in anticipation. Well, Benitez’s first answer came in the form of removing Bale from the right flank as entrusting him with the No. 10 role which the Welshman craved for since the start of the season.
The opening fixture showed that it wasn’t the right call said otherwise as Bale failed to impress in his new role and squandered chances enraging the Bernabeu boo boys further. But what was even more baffling was to see James starting from the bench in Real’s 0-0 draw at Gijon, more so as it was his introduction that instilled life into Madrid’s attack.
Despite speculations of rift between the new manager and the Colombian, the Spaniard fielded James in his first team against Betis on Matchday 2 and the 23-year-old just demonstrated why he should be the one to play the coveted No. 10 role for Los Blancos.
James has thrived for Colombia in the coveted role
Taking over the dead ball duties from Cristiano Ronaldo and striking from a wide angle, James scored a stunner from his free kick and also rounded off his amazing performance with a breath-taking bicycle kick. A performance to savour, James dictated the play with his wide range of passing and was involved in almost all of Madrid’s attacking moves, linking brilliantly from his free role higher up the pitch.
Scoring 2 free kicks in his last 4 games and being the catalyst in Rafa’s tactics in the last game, it is time indeed to allow the Colombian the freedom to play behind the striker for Los Blancos. It’s not a gamble of any sorts as was evident from his incredible run with the national team. For Colombia, James has been the deciding factor – a massively key figure, who has been the undisputed star showcasing his full potential from the attacking midfield role.
6 goals in 5 matches is no common feat in a competition like the World Cup and it was that platform in the first place that led to his signing for the 32-time La Liga champions. Weigh up the possibilities of his chances of excelling in that role amongst the Galacticos considering how far he has taken his country into the competition with an average Colombian side (obviously when compared to Real).
Time is certainly Rafa’s enemy at the Bernabeu and he has to yield results from the word go. And getting his No. 10 player in the right role should be his priority to give Madrid that edge in their quest for trophies.