HomeBayern MunichRiches to rags: The story of James Rodriguez

Riches to rags: The story of James Rodriguez

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In a packed stadium, against a hungry pack of Uruguayan wolves, James Rodriguez caressed the ball, gracefully, on to his chest in the final third of the pitch.

He patiently waited for the ball to drop and then hit it first-time past the helpless Uruguayan shot-stopper.

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Not only did the World Cup goal win him the Puskas award, but it also earned the attacking midfielder a move to his dream club, Real Madrid

The move from Monaco in 2014 was meant to be a revelation for the Colombian — his stepping stone to unmatched stardom. Sadly for the man and millions of followers, it has been a spell of frustrations and missed opportunities. 

The perfect start 

After seeing his club lift their 10th Champions League, Real Madrid president, Florentino Perez dipped into the market to bring home another prized asset — a shiny ‘Galactico.’

The Spaniard admitted that he had no idea who James Rodriguez was before his stellar 2014 World Cup campaign.

Perez didn’t approach Rodriguez purely from a footballing point of view.

He was also looking to seize Colombia’s poster boy and attempting to cash in on his appeal and gravitas.

The deal went through smoothly, and, in the first month itself, Real Madrid sold a record number of jersey in his home soil, Colombia. 

Then-Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti managed to accommodate James Rodriguez in a three-man midfield alongside Luka Modric and Toni Kroos.

The Colombian didn’t stand on ceremony to settle in and started his Real Madrid career in spectacular fashion. 

He took only three games to record his first official goal and assist for the Merengues.

Against a hapless Deportivo La Coruna, the attacking midfielder produced one of his finest performances to lead his club to a whopping 8-2 win.

He maintained his good form against Barcelona, as well, and produced an assist in a 3-1 Clasico win.

Unfortunately, Los Blancos lost their way both in Spain and Europe, ending the season without bagging even a single trophy. 

The drop

Carlo Ancelotti was let go after the end of the 2014-15 campaign, which, in many ways, marked the beginning of the end for James Rodriguez.

To accommodate a classic number 10 like Rodriguez, Real Madrid needed to either play a four-man midfield or a double-pivot; neither of which was a valid option at the time. 

To top it off, James Rodriguez tore his muscle in the opening days of the league campaign, which made it all the more difficult for him to settle in.

After Rafael Benitez, Zinedine Zidane tried to use him as a right-winger and then as a central midfielder, but neither seemed suitable for his skill set. 

Next season, Zidane unofficially divided the team in two — Squad A and Squad B. James Rodriguez, despite his world-class qualities, became a member of the latter.

He started most matches for Squad B but spent the remainder of the games on the bench.

Out of 31 La Liga matches, he started only 13 and was substituted in on nine occasions — a disappointing return for a player of his calibre.

He did pitch in with 11 goals and 12 assists across all competitions, but the numbers alone couldn’t save him from an impending loan spell away from the Bernabeu. 

In the summer of 2017, Rodriguez joined Bayern Munich on a two-year loan deal. In Germany too, he started off brilliantly and recorded eight goals and 14 assists in 39 games across all competitions, but his lack of flexibility and injury concerns once again kept him from fulfilling his potential.

Next season, he only made 28 appearances in all competitions and racked up seven goals and six assists. 

Upon completing his loan spell at Bayern, James Rodriguez rejoined Real Madrid in the summer of 2019.

However, he has once again failed to make any significant impact for the league leaders.

Ravaged by injuries and lack of sharpness, the 28-year-old has only played 14 games for the Whites, directly contributing to three goals — one goal and two assists. 

The uncertainty 

James Rodriguez, on his day and in a favourable system, is one of the best players in the world.

He is one of the finest crossers of the ball, has an explosive left foot, and is capable of unlocking low-blocking units.

However, despite his technical prowess, he is far from being one of the most sought-after names in the world. And his lack of versatility is to be blamed for it. 

At Real Madrid, he’s unlikely to get another season, especially under Zinedine Zidane.

The player, too, has expressed his desire to play more. So, the sooner the two can end this unhappy marriage the better.

However, before hastily exiting the club, James Rodriguez must figure out how he wishes to spend the remainder of his career — adjusting to a new role or excelling as a number 10.

The correct answer could still help him return to his glory days.

A wrong call, however, would most certainly be fatal for his career. 

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