Over the last few years James Rodriguez has been considered one of the most promising young talents in world football, and during his time at Porto he was linked with a move to Manchester United almost every single transfer window without fail. Now at Monaco, the 22-year-old is Colombia’s main attacking and creative threat due the absence of star striker Falcao. We had already earmarked him as ‘one to watch’ for this summer’s tournament, and on Saturday he made a goalscoring debut in the FIFA World Cup against Greece in Belo Horizonte.
Although usually a winger, Rodriguez operated in the traditional ‘number 10’ role for Colombia and was heavily involved in the majority of the Colombian attacks. He showed several clever touches and found a lot of space between the Greek midfield and defence. His stature and movement is very reminiscent of Juan Mata, and he showed a great ability to link the play throughout the match in a similar way to the Spaniard, completing 88% of his passes during the 90 minutes.
While he appeared all across the pitch yesterday, and was heavily involved in a creative sense for the Colombians, he left a little bit to be desired in the final third. As you can see from the Squawka statistics above, he did not complete a single ‘key pass’ in the attacking area of the pitch, and was not directly involved in either of the first two goals. There are two ways to evaluate his performance; on one hand it was his first appearance in a World Cup and he was good if not overly impressive, but on the other hand against a relatively poor Greek side it was disappointed not to see him dominate the game in a more decisive and eye-catching manner.
Of course Rodriguez’s headline moment was his sixth international goal, coming in the dying moments of the game. It was a neat, instinctive finish with his left foot and showed he also has an eye for goal as well as the obvious creative spark that he brings to the team. Aside from the goal, he also had a number of other shots in and around the penalty area, and it was good to see. He brings an obvious goal threat and isn’t afraid to let fly from distance, and although he only scored once, he showed his potential as both a goalscoring and creative midfielder.
Should United wish to make a move for a player they have been so heavily linked with over the past few years, he would command a hefty transfer fee. He moved to Monaco for well over €40million and I would be surprised if they would let him move on this summer, at least cheaply. Should he make the move it would be unlikely if he operated in that central area for United, given the plethora of options available to Louis van Gaal in the ‘number 10’ role. He is equally adept at playing in wide areas, and it would be interesting to see him play there for Colombia during the tournament and see how he performs. James Rodriguez is clearly a talented young footballer with a big future, and his performances will shape how far Colombia can go in this World Cup. I am very interested to see how he kicks on from his first game against Greece and if he can star in the rest of the tournament.
By Adem Berkay
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