James Rodríguez 20 Winger FC Porto
The path that takes a player from South America to superstardom, via northern Portugal, is a well-worn one. Since the turn of the century, Porto’s exports to the European elite could form a crack outfit of their own: Pepe, Anderson, Lucho González, Luís Fabiano (though admittedly he was poor at the Dragão), Lisandro López, Radamel Falcao. In the next two seasons, expect James Rodríguez to be added to that list.
Since the publication of the Don Balon list in November 2010, James (it’s pronounced Ha-mes, something the player himself has been eager to emphasise) has supplanted Silvestre Varela as Porto’s first-choice partner for Hulk, lifted the Primeira Liga, Taça de Portugal and Europa League trophies, and arguably replaced the aforementioned Hulk and the now-departed Falcao as Porto’s most bankable asset.
A lightning-quick winger with the ability to bamboozle defenders at will, James has carried his form fomr the end of last season through to the beginning of this one. A hat trick in the Taça de Portugal final was followed by an impressive summer with the Colombian Under-20 squad, for whom he notched up three goals at the Under-20 World Cup. A full call-up followed in October, and he provided the assist for Falcao’s last-minute winner against Bolivia.
Perhaps the clearest indicator of James’ potential came in June 2011, when less than a year after his arrival at the club, James put pen to paper on a contract extension, which will tie him to the Dragão until 2016. There was also a pointed increase in his release clause, from €30,000,000 to €45,000,000. The significance of that change will have been lost on no one, much like James’ potential.
“An impressive first season at Porto came as no suprise to those of us who saw him for Banfield in Argentina, where he was just brilliant.” – Sam Kelly (Hasta El Gol Siempre)
“James is just the latest in a long line of talented South Americans to pitch up at Porto, but if the last few months are any indication, he could turn out to be the best of the lot. Porto are not the juggernaut that they were last season, but the pace of James’ development continues to amaze.” – Ben Shave (Portugoal.net)
C+ Hugely exciting, keep doing what you are doing