Colombian star James Rodriguez has set this summer’s World Cup competition alight with his outstanding goals, assists and skill. This rise to stardom has come as a surprise to many football fans but the Colombian has been building up to this moment for a long time. Let’s look back on the career of Rodriguez to try and understand how he managed to come from a small town in Colombia to becoming a huge star in Brazil.
James David Rodriguez was born on the 12 July 1991 in Cacuta, Colombia. James began his football career as a young teenager when he was spotted at the Pony Futbol Championship which is famous as a breeding ground for footballing talent in Colombia. The likes of Radamel Falcao (1998) were spotted in previous years at the famous competition.
James Rodriguez was spotted in the competition in 2004 after he stole the show by becoming the competition’s top scorer, best player and scoring a wonder goal straight from a corner kick.
Rodriguez began his professional career at Colombian Division Two side Envigado FC where he also made it into the first team in 2007 at the tender age of 16. In his first season at Envigado he managed to score 9 goals in 30 appearances. In 2008, the Colombian moved on to Argentine side Club Atletico Banfield where he spent almost three seasons before making a big move to Europe when Porto FC signed him in 2010.
Porto spent €5.1m on the attacking midfielder and he turned out to be a bargain during his three seasons at the club. In his first season he scored six goals and assisted a further eight in 24 appearances. In the 2011-12 season he became an important member of the squad as he scored 14 goals, made 11 assists and won the LFPF Award for Breakthrough Player of the Year, despite being just twenty years of age. This achievement made him the second Colombian after Falcao to win this award and the youngest ever recipient.
James’ outstanding season did not go unnoticed as he caught the attention of Manchester United’s Alex Ferguson who attempted to bring the young star to Old Trafford in the summer of 2012. Porto prevented this from happening by increasing his buyout clause and rewarded the youngster by handing him the number 10 shirt.
He continued his great form in the 2012-13 season by racking up 12 goals and 8 assists which would have undoubtedly been a lot more if he had not struggled with a hamstring problem. James also played a huge role in Porto’s Champions League run in the same season, scoring the winner against French giants Paris Saint-Germain.
Monaco came in with a mega €45m offer last summer for the young attacking midfielder which made him the second most expensive transfer out of the Portuguese league, after Hulk.
In James’ first season in France, he played in 38 games scoring ten goals and completing twelve assists. This impressive form also resulted in James being named in the Ligue 1 Team of the Year and he also helped his side Monaco get back into the Champions League.
The French media have hyped up James as the most exciting prospect in Ligue 1 but still no one expected him to make the impact he has made in this summer’s World Cup.
During his stint at Porto FC, Rodriguez was called up to represent Colombia U-20s. It was not long until he was made captain of the side for the U-20 World Cup where he scored three times and created five assists before Colombia were knocked out by Mexico in the quarter-finals.
James impressed again in the Toulon Tournament where the Colombian U-20s went on to triumph after defeating France on penalties and he was named MVP after the competition. This impressive form for the Colombian youth sides led to a call up to the senior side and he made his debut for Colombia’s senior side on the 29th of December 2011 vs. Bolivia where he was named man of the match as he set up Falcao to score the winner in a 2-1 win.
James Rodriguez continued his fine form for his country and played a huge role in helping Colombia qualify for this year’s World Cup. He scored his first goal in a 3-1 win in a qualifying game against Peru and then played a huge role in Uruguay’s 4-0 demolition of Uruguay.
James scored a beautiful 30 yard free kick in a 3-1 win against Chile which put Colombia second in the World Cup qualification standings and struck again by scoring a winning goal against Ecuador at the final stages of qualification games. Colombia then drew 3-3 with Chile and beat Paraguay 2-1 which meant that they had returned to the World Cup for the first time in sixteen years.
James’ role in Colombia’s qualification for the World Cup resulted in him being earmarked as a pivotal member of the country’s World Cup squad and new coach Jose Pekerman gave him the iconic number 10 shirt, which was once worn by Colombian star Carlos Valderrama.
Pekerman’s belief in the youngster for this summer’s competition has paid dividends as he has been key for a Colombian side that are missing star player Radamel Falcao. In their opening game, James set up two goals and scored in the last minute to help Colombia beat Greece 3-0 while in their second group game he scored again and set up Quintero’s goal to help Colombia to a 2-1 victory over the Ivory Coast.
James Rodriguez was a second half substitute in their final group game but still made an impact by assisting two goals and scoring once in their 4-1 destruction of Japan.
It was last weekend where James Rodriguez made himself a hero as he scored twice to put Colombia into the quarter finals and end Uruguay’s World Cup dream. James’ first goal was an outstanding effort which showed his unbelievable control and accuracy with the ball as he scored a Rivaldo-like volley to put his team ahead. His second was a great team goal and showed Colombia are a strong force in the competition.
James Rodriguez was named man of the match and even his opposition had praise for him after the game as Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez said,
“It was one of the greatest goals the World Cup has ever seen.”
Unsurprisingly, James Rodriguez is already being considered as candidate for player of the tournament at this year’s World Cup. He has unbelievable control of the ball, is mentally sharp, has quick reactions and is comfortable with the ball on either foot.
He will be a real handful for Brazil when they meet Colombia in the quarter-finals.
Former Colombia star Carlos Valderrama has huge praise for James Rodriguez and we’ll finish with a quote from the long-haired legend,
“He’s often consistent, incredibly talented and he’s got more passion than any other player I’ve ever seen in all my years of playing and coaching professional football.”
Sarah Ftizpatrick, Pundit Arena.