Despite watching James Rodriguez star at the Santiago Bernabeu, Real Madrid coach Rafael Benitez defended his decision to omit the Colombian from the starting XI last week.
The Spanish media were stunned when Benitez preferred Isco to Rodriguez for Madrid’s opening match of the La Liga season away to Sporting Gijon, which ended 0-0.
Rodriguez started on Saturday, scoring two brilliant goals in a 5-0 romp against Real Betis, but Benitez insisted the 24-year-old had not been ready for the trip to Gijon after his Copa America campaign during the close-season.
“He joined up with the squad late because of the Copa America and he needs to get up to speed,” Benitez said at his post-match news conference.
“His quality is unquestionable. When we think that he can bring something to the team, he plays and if not, one of his team-mates plays.
“I don’t get involved in this debate about whether ‘so-and-so’ plays over someone else.”
Rodriguez teed up Madrid’s first goal against Betis, crossing for Gareth Bale’s second-minute header, while the former Monaco playmaker doubled the hosts’ lead with a scorching free-kick six minutes before the interval.
After Karim Benzema scored Madrid’s third from Bale’s cross early in the second half, Rodriguez produced a bicycle kick to complete his brace in the 50th minute.
Bale then made it 5-0 with a 25-yard strike.
“I like the fact that we scored five goals, even more so than us not conceding,” Benitez said.
One name that failed to get on the scoresheet was Cristiano Ronaldo but Benitez was unfazed the Portuguese has yet to open his account after two matches.
“Cristiano Ronaldo had the most attempts on goal of all of our players. If the team continue to create chances, his goals will come,” the coach said.