The Colombian playmaker admitted on Sunday that he could move on in the January window and with Real able to sign in the summer, he is now a step closer to the exit door
The end is nigh for James Rodriguez at Real Madrid. The Spanish side were reluctant to let any of their players leave in the summer due to their transfer ban which meant they could not register new players until 2018. But now that sanction has been reduced, the Colombian looks likely to depart.
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James signed for Madrid in the summer of 2014 after an excellent World Cup with Colombia, but after an impressive debut season in 2014-15 under Carlo Ancelotti, he has struggled to hold down a place at the Spanish side and has slipped way down the pecking order at the Santiago Bernabeu.
In the final of the Club World Cup against Japanese side Kashima Antlers on Sunday, a new ruling allowed Madrid to become the first team to use four substitutes in an official match. Not even that, however, was enough for James to get on the pitch for Zinedine Zidane’s side.
“I can’t assure I will stay at Real Madrid,” the 25-year-old said afterwards. “I have offers and seven days left to think about my future. I am happy in Madrid, but I want to play more. I have a bitter feeling as I wanted to play the final, but I am happy for the title. It’s the 15th title of my career.”
But, just like the Champions League crown earlier in 2016, it came with little protagonism from the South American playmaker. James was an unused substitute in Milan as Madrid claimed their 11th European Cup and stayed on the bench for the entirety again in Yokohama on Sunday.
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He has also fallen behind Isco in the battle for a starting spot. The Spain midfielder was so impressive in the 3-0 win away to Atletico in La Liga last month and is now ahead of the Colombian in Zidane’s thoughts.
Madrid’s coach is asked about James’ future in every single press conference and sometimes on several occasions. “It is a problem,” he admitted earlier in December. “He is not playing much and he wants to play more.”
James, who admitted during his time at Banfield in Argentina that Zidane was his idol as a youngster, said in the summer that he was willing to keep working to make his Madrid dream work out.
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However, he has grown frustrated at a lack of opportunities since then. In total, he has appeared 16 times, starting only nine matches and scoring two goals this term, but when everyone is available, he is nowhere near Zidane’s first-choice XI.
Madrid had been unwilling to consider any major departures due to their transfer ban for the irregularities in the signing of young players which was set to see no new players registered until 2018.
But, with that sanction now reduced, Real can now sign in the summer. And, given the substantial size of their squad and the fact that they rarely buy players in January anyway, James now looks likely to leave. The only question now seems not if, but when – in January or at the end of the season.