In Real Madrid’s last La Liga game against Sporting Gijon at Santiago Bernabeu, the home side had taken a 5-0 halftime lead but when Gareth Bale hobbled off the ground due to an injury, new coach Zidane introduced Jese Rodrigues at halftime while the other Rodrigues, James kept warming the bench. Already rumors were rife about James’ patchy career at Bernabeu and leaving the Colombian star on sidelines was another proof of his reduced status. James had been treated similarly by Rafa Benitez but since the Colombian was injured, his exclusion from starting line-up was played up as injury related. James did arrive on the hour-mark against Sporting but it was far too late for him to do anything of substance. Incidentally, Gareth Bale himself had been on Zidane’s crosshairs but after he scored 4 goals in the last two games, Zidane went out of his way to profusely deny that Bale was put on the auction block. In James’ case, however, issues are vastly different.
Out of 20 games this season so far, James Rodrigues has made the starting line-up only 7 times. That is too poor for someone, who stole the limelight in Brazil’s 2014 World Cup and commanded a whopping €80 million in August 2014 for his transfer from Monaco to Real Madrid. That also paved the way for Angel di Maria’s exit to Manchester United. In the first match of the new season on August 24, 2015 against Sporting Gijon, James was not included in the starting line-up, when Karim Benzema was absent. The Frenchman’s place was taken by Jese Rodrigues. It was a debut game for Rafael Benitez but the new coach only earned disappointment as the match ended in a 0-0 draw. James played in the last 30 minutes and failed to make any impression. Five months later, Real played against the same opposition last Sunday and once again, James couldn’t make the starting line-up.
Ever since Benitez arrived at Bernabeu, he was unable to strike the right chord with James. Earlier, James had gone to Chile to represent Colombia in Copa America and he was asked by Benitez to return to Madrid early. But James angered Benitez by delaying his arrival. Therefore the coach-player relationship had a bad start and it failed to improve as time passed. James, however, was Madrid’s star in their second match, which Real won 5-0 against Real Betis. He scored two scintillating goals but on duty for Colombia soon, he suffered a thigh injury that took 7 weeks to heal. He became available in November but missed the starting line-up against Sevilla, which Real lost 2-3. James was brought in 63rd minute but he scored once in the injury time. James had trained all week but he was still ignored by Benitez, who told reporters that the Colombian was not fit enough to play more than thirty minutes. Five days later, James played for full 90 minutes in Colombia’s match against Chile and scored a goal in the 1-1 draw. After that, he communicated to Benitez that he could play for 90 minutes, whatever the coach may think about him. James came back for the El Clasico at Bernabeu that Real Madrid lost 0-4. This time, the Bernabeu bosses pointed their fingers at Benitez for poorly managing the side. Benitez had benched Isco, who got angry and when he came on for a while, he kicked Neymar to be red-carded. Nothing went right for Benitez after that until he got the whip. Madrid had to shell off millions but they thought Benitez was good riddance. When Zidane came in, James was expected to return to the starting line-up. But Zidane preferred Isco in the game against Deportivo. Real thrashed them 5-0 and James was still absent in the start, when Real Madrid crushed Sporting Gijon 5-1 last Sunday.
Lot of people think James could be having problems other than football. When he came to Madrid as the World Cup superstar, he had a good first season but his pitch performance took a nose dive subsequently. In Copa America too, James performance for Colombia left a lot to be desired. With his game dipping sharply for the Club and the country, tongues started wagging. On his way to the training ground on January 1, James was caught for speeding in his car. There were also rumors that the James’ marriage to Daniela Ospina could be on rocks as he had been spotted in Madrid’s nightclubs on a few occasions. Daniela is the sister of Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina and she has gone back to Colombia with their daughter Salome. But rumors didn’t account for the fact that Daniela was shooting for the famous television show Dancing with the Stars and if she has made no mention of her husband, it could be due to the strict rules at Real Madrid on making contacts. But the tabloid press hasn’t stopped its work. They have splashed the news on James party lifestyle and even linked him romantically to Russian model Helga Lovekaty.
Meanwhile at Old Trafford, they are keeping a close tab on James. The playmaker’s potential availability and his transfer price is being weighed up. With Benitez, everyone at Bernabeu had related James performance to his relationship with the coach but even with Zidane, James is not getting anywhere. As per reports, Manchester United could make a move soon. Famous players’ agent Jorge Mendes is confident about striking a deal between Real and United and may pave the way for the transfer of the 24-year Colombian. If the move succeeds, United could spend over €75m for James, the same amount they paid to acquire Angel Di Maria from Madrid in 2014.
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