Criticised for his lack of form and lack of goals, Colombian star James Rodriguez sent the clear message to his critics with a stunner against Athletic Bilbao.
Following his impressive performances at 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, James Rodriguez was signed by Real Madrid in July 2014, when he agreed on a six-year contract with the Spanish giants for an undisclosed fee, reportedly worth around €80 million.
It was the typical Florentino Perez’s move as the Colombian starlet presented the brand, the quality, the image and had the full package which was immediately recognized by the Real Madrid fans, who flocked to Bernabeu to greet him for the presentation.
With more than 45,000 people on the stands, James Rodriguez put up a million dollar smile to send the crowd into frenzy, only for Florentino Perez to seal the deal with the fans for good claiming he welcomed James as a ‘lover’ and ‘long supporter’ of the club.
The Colombian was one of Real Madrid’s biggest signings that summer and was expected to make an immediate impact on Los Blancos, which he actually did during his maiden season under Carlo Ancelotti.
The 24-year-old attacking midfielder enjoyed his life under the Italian tactician, having amassed 29 league appearances during which he scored 13 goals for a more than a satisfying record in his maiden season.
The arrival of Rafa Benitez turned the fortunes around.
Reported clashes between the player and the manager have had a longstanding influence on the team spirit which ultimately had all the players turn against the Spaniard. Rafa Benitez paid the price for his poor man management, for his lack of team chemistry, but James Rodriguez’s case was more than just a misunderstanding with the coach.
There were other factors which limited Rodriguez’s time on the pitch.
His nights out and much frowned upon lifestyle caused a dip in form, which James Rodriguez was seemingly unwilling to admit.
Just 11 La Liga starts so far and total of fifteen appearances were followed by five goals and can come as yet another confirmation of James Rodriguez’s ability which not a single man ever had any doubts about.
However, it was the attitude that was questioned and criticised.
The Colombian felt he should be involved more regularly, failing to acknowledge fitness problems, demanding a pay raise in the process as well. The media and the press did their part, Rodriguez’s professionalism was called into question which had affected the player himself.
James admitted he was hit by criticism.
But as he ran away from the police car for several miles when he failed to stop after being caught speeding to Real Madrid training it appeared that Rodriguez was running away from the truth and from the problem itself.
Problems were there, problems were real and problems needed to be taken care of.
Luckily for James, one obstacle was removed as Rafa Benitez was ultimately forced to pack his pack and cut his tenure at Real Madrid short due to lack of results.
“The coaching change has been good for everyone. Not just for me. Zidane talks with everybody and gives you more encouragement to play well and know what you are worth”, Rodriguez said, quite openly about the change at the helm.
Zinedine Zidane handed Rodriguez his first start of 2016 on 24 January against Real Betis and the Colombian repaid his trust with an assist for Karim Benzema in the disappointing 1-1 stalemate.
The Colombian was reinstalled in the first-team by the French manager and has started all three games for Real Madrid since Real Betis match.
He even got his name on the scoresheet in the 6-0 rout over Espanyol, but his Saturday’s stunner in the 4-2 triumph over Athletic Bilbao was perhaps the definite proof of Rodriguez’s rise in form.
Rodriguez powered a long-range effort from outside the box into the bottom corner and he celebrated it in style to send his team on course of a comprehensive victory.
James is once again enjoying his football at Real Madrid and today’s goal was his fifth this season, but it was definitely one worth the wait.
It can also be interpreted as acknowledgment to Zidane’s hands-on approach, to man management which has been able to re-establish team balance, and which will ultimately lead to success. Perhaps not this season as Los Blancos are trailing Barcelona by one point in second place, but with a game in hand, but Zidane effect has fans believe once again.
Real Madrid are made underdogs at 8/1 to win the La Liga title this season, but with a lot of games still to be played no one can rule Zidane’s team out of the race for sure just yet.