Colombia’s number 10, dubbed ‘El Nuevo Pibe’ (The New Kid), successor to Colombian legend Carlos Valderrama the original ‘El Pibe’, James Rodriguez is reportedly on the verge of a massive €80million move to Real Madrid that would make him the most expensive Colombian footballer of all time, surpassing the €60million current club AS Monaco paid for teammate Radamel Falcao last summer. The World Cup Golden Boot winner, and unofficial best player in the tournament, has the world at his prodigiously talented left foot. After his outstanding performances in leading Colombia to an unlucky Quarter Final defeat against hosts Brazil, in which he played in all 5 of their games scoring 6 goals and assisting 5 more, it was inevitable that heads would turn and cheque books would open.
The diminutive playmaker is the hottest property in world football right now and is understandably being tracked by the world’s biggest club, Real Madrid. After scoring possibly the best goal of the tournament, one of two he scored in the knockout round victory over Uruguay, interest in him rocketed with defeated coach Oscar Tabarez comparing him to Lionel Messi, Diego Maradona and Luis Suarez. After the game Rodriguez himself admitted that moving to the 10 times European Champions would be a dream come true, a move he would relish above transferring to rivals Barcelona. The prospect of wearing the famous white strip, winning the most prestigious trophies and competing in front of more than 80,000 passionate fans at the legendary Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is one that would appeal to any young footballer, but especially one currently playing in front of just 18,523 at Monaco’s Stade Louis II in the less competitive, and less respected, French Ligue 1, even with all the tax free benefits it may bring. Could anyone say no to Madrid?
Perhaps James Rodriguez should. For this summer at least. Recently turning 23 he is still a relatively young player and at a crucial stage of development. On the cusp of progressing from ‘New Kid’ to a truly world class star, a season of guaranteed first team football in the Champions League for Monaco will be of paramount importance if he is to take the next step and become one of the very best in the world. Vital to Monaco’s hopes of challenging Paris Saint-Germain’s dominance in Ligue 1, one more season of being the main man, as well as a potential winner’s medal around his neck, would better equip Rodriguez to enter the Galactico’s dressing room in 12 months time.
A lesson can be learned from the winner of the 2012 European Golden Boy (award for best player in Europe) Isco. The 22 year old Spanish attacker was previously the most coveted number 10 in the world before moving to Real Madrid from Malaga for €30million last summer. Despite a decent first season in the Spanish capital, which saw him score 11 and assist 8 in 53 appearances in all competitions, his progress has undeniably stalled. Completing 90 minutes just 8 times in La Liga, he missed out on Spain’s World Cup campaign with even young Barcelona starlet Gerard Deulofeu, recently on loan at Everton, seemingly ahead of him in the queue for a place in the squad. Deulofeu’s appearance in the pre-World Cup friendly against Bolivia suggests that he will be the man Spain look to as they attempt to revitalize an ageing team after a poor World Cup showing.
One of the difficulties Isco faced last season was that his style as a traditional number 10 does not fit into Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti’s preferred 443 formation with three deeper, more well rounded, central midfielders allowing wide men Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale to cut into the space in the centre of the pitch. New €24million signing Toni Kroos will be the creative fulcrum of the team as a deep lying playmaker and, despite his eye catching brilliance, it is difficult to see where Rodriguez, like Isco, will get consistent game time in Ancelotti’s system. It would be a tragedy if the golden boy of the 2014 World Cup suffered this fate.
One final phenomenal season with Monaco would benefit all three parties, enabling James Rodriguez to develop into Real Madrid’s undisputed number 10.