Exactly 832 days since he last featured for Real Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu, James Rodriguez once again set foot on the holy ground of Los Blancos, in front of a roaring crowd and on the big maiden game for the team in their own backyard.
The 2019/20 season started off quite nicely, Real Madrid beat a difficult opponent away from home in Vigo with a 3-1 scoreline, Zinedine Zidane seemed to have found his groove once again and the team was ticking like in the days of triple Champions League crowns.
Granted, many were quick to point out that with the return of Zidane’s old tricks, the team suffered from the very same issues and mistakes that came back along with the Frenchman’s (re)appointment. But not all was bleak as for the first time since 2017, Rodriguez would don the white kit and dance in front of the Galactico fans in the Spanish capital.
And what a “debut” it was. The little Colombian was among the best performers on the pitch, combining well with the other outcast, Gareth Bale, and constantly moving around the field. The play seemed to very much revolve around him and he loved every second of it.
He tallied two key passes and 87.5% passing accuracy from his main position, just behind the striker. Some 57 minutes after the start of the game, he was taken off before he could give Real Madrid any more palpable results with his performance.
But the crowd were quick to notice his efforts and the 28-year-old was given a standing ovation as he exited the pitch, similarly like two times before: once when they thought the Colombian had played his last ever game for the team back in the season 2016/17 and once when he returned to face the Whites with Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-finals.
There was no doubt back then and there seems to be none right now: James is very much a fan favourite, regardless of the fact if he’s donning the white, red or any other colour for that matter. So why are Real Madrid still not sure what to do with their little gem?
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Rodriguez was reportedly even on the table when Florentino Perez was still trying really hard to secure the services of Neymar Junior from PSG. Clearly, if that report is to be believed, he doesn’t have much faith in the Colombian. But is that really warranted?
Rodriguez has been nothing short of brilliant during the majority of his time spent at the Santiago Bernabeu. In his 112 games he played for the Whites, he managed to score 36 goals and assist further 40 in the process. Clearly, there is a lot of quality here to be used.
He showed as much in Bayern Munich as well where he netted an almost equally impressive 15 goals and 20 assists in 67 matches played. Colombia would also gladly attest to his skills.
With 28 years already on his back, he’s got a decent amount of experience in his boots and 76 caps won for his national team. He’s been to the World Cup and he’s been to the Copa America. The big stage is no stranger to him.
And best of all, this is the perfect time for him to go out there and claim a spot in the team. Sure, there are a lot of talented players waiting in line at Real Madrid but now that he’s back and with a point to prove, the stage is his to take.
This would’ve been even more true if he hadn’t gotten injured, just like half of the Real Madrid squad at the moment, as it seems. But he won’t be out for too long and with Los Blancos’ ranks somewhat depleted at the moment, his chances of success are still big enough.
The crowd is seemingly behind him, he’s got the skills, Real Madrid are in dire need of something new and something different and he is in need of a permanent home. The pieces are slowly falling into place but he will definitely have to convince Zidane that he’s worthy of keeping a spot in his starting XI of Galaticos.
Luckily, he is quite versatile and can play virtually anywhere in the forward line bar the centre-forward position and that makes him highly valuable, especially in this hour of need when Real Madrid have more attackers in the hospital than in the squad.
But the best way to innovate would definitely be to try something new, different and exciting. At this moment, for better or worse, Rodriguez just might be Real Madrid’s best bet.