James Rodríguez 21 Midfielder FC Porto
It’s pronounced Ha-mes. Not James. Ha-mes. Got that? Excellent. IBWM tend to make the mistake frequently and James himself has always been eager to emphasis it’s delicacy.
As for James the footballer; FC Porto have something quite special on their hands and they are quickly starting to realise that. Rodríguez is a glorious product of modern football. He ticks every single box expected of the best attacking players in the world nowadays.
Blessed with a terrifying turn of pace and lightening quick feet, strong in possession and able to absolutely thump the ball with the most precise of accuracy, James causes problems for every defence that are silly enough to let him run at them. He both scores and creates really fabulous goals for club and country with alarming regularity.
His first two years in Portugal were something of a formative time for the young forward. 2012 has seen Porto and the Colombian national team reaping the rewards of their investment in his potential.
As Andre Villas-Boas guided FC Porto to a historic Primeira Liga, Taça de Portugal and Europa League, James dipped in and out the team gaining valuable minutes on the pitch. He was usually found replacing Silvestre Varela in a front three that also boasted Hulk and Falcao. Since the big money departures of both the Brazilian and the Colombian striker, Rodríguez has become the club’s next big fundraiser.
The loss of two such influential players as well as a smattering of others through the side means that Porto are not the same team that they were a couple of years ago. That said, they have all but qualified for the knock-out stages of the Champions League after just four games and a big part of that has been thanks to James’ development.
He has, rather predictably, been likened to Carlos Valderrama thanks to his play for both club and country, and it’s obvious he relishes being able to pull on the number 10 shirt that the larger-than-life Carlos sported. Speaking in the summer, James said: “Carlos Valderrama was the one I admired most, really. At the time, he was a top player and I had a lot of admiration for him. I met him once and he’s a great person, someone who provided the country with a lot of joy.”
“He was a very intelligent footballer who could create something out of nothing as well as score goals. For those reasons, we all wanted to have the No10 on our backs when we played.”
Rodríguez has all the tools in his game to eclipse the achievements of Valderrama. Not least of all because he gets to partner up with former Porto team-mate Falcao in the national side. The whole Colombian side at the moment are a different beast than previous incarnations. Should they qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, they will have to be considered serious dark horses to walk away as very unlikely champions. The South American conditions will suit them.
Last year we speculated about the pointed increase in the release clause embedded in James’ contract with FC Porto. A €15,000,000 jump to €45,000,000 will no doubt have caused a few accountants of Europe’s elite clubs to sigh a little. Given the amount of money in the European game and the volumes of new money that seems to pour in with each passing year, the Portugese giants can feel pretty confident about forcing every serious suitor for James to meet the release.
Thanks to the year that he has had, such a figure may just sell James a little short when he does eventually move on.
“Whilst the sale of Hulk has been felt at Porto, the ascension of James Rodriguez has softened the blow considerably. A series of sparkling displays this season has left the Colombian on the verge of superstardom.” - Ben Shave (PortuGOAL)
“Already a key cog in an exciting new Colombian side under José Pekerman, Rodriguez is impressing so much at club level that the media have mooted a change in Porto's system to accommodate him in his most natural role.” - Ed Malyon (The Mirror, The Guardian)
C+ Has the world at his feet