It seemed unlikely that James Rodriguez would ever play another competitive game for Real Madrid. The Colombian had been sent on a two-year loan deal to Bayern Munich, with the Bavarians holding an option to sign him permanent after that period. Even when Bayern Munich decided not to exercise that option at the end of last season it seemed probable that Real Madrid would move him on.
And yet James was kept at the Santiago Bernabeu for the 2019/season. The initial signs were positive for the playmaker. He looked to have regained the trust of Zinedine Zidane, earning a place in the Real Madrid after a number of impressive performances over pre-season. There is still a player in there.
Now, though, James’ time at the Santiago Bernabeu might well be over. The Colombian has struggled for game time of late with Zidane overlooking the playmaker for every game Real Madrid have played since the Copa del Rey defeat to Real Sociedad at the start of February. He has been ostracised at a time of the season when Zidane could use the extra squad depth.
Speculation is already swirling over where James could pitch up next, with Wolves reported to be interested in the 28-year-old. A switch to Molineux would be somewhat remarkable, making a real statement about the progress they have made over the past few seasons under Nuno Espirito Santo.
James is still an exceptional player with exceptional talent. He could still enjoy a fruitful twilight to his career. He hasn’t played poorly in the handful of appearances he has made for Real Madrid this season, but an elite level team needs performers who can make a difference. Increasingly, James finds himself a passenger. He is no longer the headline grabber he was a few years ago. He is no longer capable of deciding a game almost entirely on his own.
Signed after the 2014 World Cup where he was the player of the tournament for Colombia, James looked like a natural ‘Galactico’ in his early days as a Real Madrid player. The aura faded quickly though and with Los Blancos in a transitional period the time has come for James to leave. That much has been proven this season. For all parties concerned, it’s probably best that a parting of ways comes this summer.
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