Teamwork makes the dream work

Can Colombia’s James Rodríguez quiet critics at Copa América?

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Earlier than Colombia‘s Copa América warm-up match in opposition to Bolívia, a presentation was made to James Rodríguez to honor his one hundredth sport for the nationwide workforce. After which he went out and pulled the strings as Colombia coasted to a 3-0 win.

On the present fee, it could take him a very long time to succeed in the milestone of 100 video games for his present membership. He has been with Sao Paulo of Brazil for 11 months, during which time he has performed simply over 20 matches. Within the final two months, he has performed exactly 10 minutes. He’s a forgotten man at his membership, whereas on the identical time being a key performer in a Colombia workforce that has put collectively an extended unbeaten run. It’s a case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. James.

A decade in the past, when he joined Actual Madrid after an excellent breakout World Cup, younger Rodríguez appeared to have the world at his ft. Champions League events have been going to be his pure habitat, the massive matches the place the left-footed Colombian would impose his class on proceedings. As a substitute, he was the ghost on the celebration when Madrid not too long ago gained yet one more Champions League.

Maybe the ghost was much more current within the semifinal, when Actual overcame Bayern Munich. It was a gathering of two former golf equipment of Rodríguez, whereas he was languishing undesirable in Brazil. Second to Lucas Moura, he’s the highest-paid participant at Sao Paulo. And he has produced subsequent to nothing.

Three coaches have tried to unravel the riddle. Membership president Julio Casares commented not too long ago stated that “it does not seem that James Rodríguez figures within the plans of our coach.” And with the workforce clocking up a sequence of victories in his absence, his exclusion has not been even barely controversial.

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Brazil is the tenth nation during which Rodríguez has performed his soccer. The primary 5 have been on the way in which up — little Envigado in Colombia, profitable a uncommon league title with Banfield in Argentina, off to success with Porto after which Monaco earlier than touchdown at Actual Madrid. The next 5 have felt like a worldwide tour of disappointment. Germany (Bayern Munich), England (Everton), Qatar (Al Rayyan) and Greece (Olympiakos) all noticed flashes of brilliance amid the issues.

Brazil remains to be ready for the flashes of brilliance.

Niggling accidents have clearly been a major a part of the story. At most of his many golf equipment, he has been pressured out of motion for extended intervals. However there’s certainly extra to it than that. Maybe former Liverpool and Republic of Eire worldwide Ray Houghton put his finger on it again for the time being of triumph, when Rodríguez was negotiating with Actual Madrid in 2014.

Houghton’s take was that the participant was not fairly fast sufficient, that he lacked that important half yard of tempo, to be the star of the present in a Actual Madrid workforce the place Cristiano Ronaldo was king of the hill. It proved a superb commentary. Rodríguez might by no means make himself the principle man. Quite the opposite, he grew to become progressively much less essential to the workforce.

In every of his six seasons in Madrid, he performed fewer video games than within the one earlier than, and his grand complete of 37 objectives in 125 video games for the membership is hardly spectacular. If Gareth Bale, with 106 objectives in 258 matches, is taken into account to not have lived as much as expectations, then the place does that depart Rodríguez?

The possible reply is that it left him pissed off, and coping with the aftermath of disappointment has not been simple.

Has his angle at all times been appropriate? There have actually been complaints at Sao Paulo. TV Gazeta journalist Jose Pais stated that membership insiders had informed him that “at instances there seems to be an absence of dedication on the a part of James Rodríguez. … Typically in bodily coaching periods the others are doing 4 or 5 sprints and he’s solely doing one.”

And again in March, Sao Paulo have been knocked out of the native state championship on a penalty shootout. Rodríguez was taking part in that night time however didn’t step as much as take a penalty. This, stated Jose Pais, “bothered among the different gamers.” It could have been the second when it grew to become exhausting to see a future for him on the membership.

Sao Paulo allowed Rodríguez to depart early to affix up with the Colombia squad getting ready for the Copa América. There may be nearly actually the hope on all sides that he’ll discover himself a brand new membership — he has expressed a need to return to Spain — and that he doesn’t should return to Brazil after the Copa. He’s superfluous to Sao Paulo’s necessities, however the 32-year-old stays of nice significance to Colombia — though this relationship has additionally not been with out its troubles.

Rodríguez established himself as a very powerful participant of the nationwide workforce through the 2014 World Cup qualifiers — after which within the event in Brazil, he exploded as a real star. 4 years later, he was as soon as once more magnificent in Colombia’s 3-0 destruction of Poland. It was among the best shows of the event. Nonetheless, it was the one time on the World Cup in Russia that he was match. With out him, Colombia fell to England within the second spherical — they usually haven’t performed a World Cup match since.

Their failure to qualify for Qatar was actually extraordinary — with a proficient facet going seven video games in a row with out scoring a single objective. Rodríguez was a part of the issue. He fell out with former Colombia coach Reinaldo Rueda, was dropped, after which recalled for the final 4 of these goalless video games, with out bettering issues.

There have been rumors of dissent within the dressing room. Months later, although, Rueda made some extent of praising his contribution, describing Rodríguez as “a wonderful particular person and an excellent skilled, aggressive and demanding of himself, an excellent chief who makes himself in style.”

Rueda was changed by Argentine coach Nestor Lorenzo — who, thus far a minimum of, has had extra success than anybody for some time in turning the undoubted potential of Rodríguez into productiveness. Workforce psychologist Marcelo Roffe thinks the issue was that the participant had been “misinterpreted in a few of his declarations.” In actuality, he informed the El Colombiano newspaper, “James is awfully right down to earth. Due to Nestor Lorenzo he’s pleased once more within the nationwide workforce, and so he’s making the followers pleased once more.”

It might be that the answer is extra tactical than psychological. It was a shock when he was referred to as up for the March friendlies in opposition to Spain and Romania. His 2014 midfield colleague Alexander Mejia was not impressed. “I would not have referred to as him up,” he informed Win Sports activities. “He hasn’t been taking part in frequently for Sao Paulo and there are different gamers who’ve been ready for an opportunity.”

After which, within the second half in opposition to Spain and all through the sport with Romania, Rodríguez confirmed that he can present one thing distinctive. Each instances he was magisterial, dictating play from deep and serving as a long-range provide line for Liverpool winger Luis Díaz.

It might be that that is Nestor Lorenzo’s secret. In an in any other case very structured facet, Rodríguez is left free, roaming to search out pockets of house from the place he can do most harm. This typically signifies that he drops a little bit deeper than he used to, the place it’s simpler for him to search out house — additionally which means that he’s not encroaching on the room that Diaz must run at opposing defenses. At their greatest, the 2 can function as one pressure, Rodríguez threading the passes for Diaz to run onto.

Diaz has little question in regards to the esteem during which he holds his teammate. Rodríguez, he says, “is the idol of the idols. I respect him and admire him so much.” Supporters of a few of Rodríguez’s latest golf equipment would possibly battle to agree — and perhaps the Copa América will pressure them to vary their minds.

For Rodríguez, this isn’t simply one other event. He turns 33 two days earlier than the ultimate. His time on the high is proscribed. This Copa, then, is an opportunity for him to make a press release as a footballer — and to discover a membership prepared to take him as soon as the present is over.