The world had its eye on James Rodriguez during the 2014 World Cup. He was the man to watch for Columbia, and his performance during the tournament made many believe he was the next big thing. It is now 2021 and James is playing in Qatar. What happened to him?

Where Did Things Go Downhill for James Rodriguez?

James Rodriguez playing for Real Madrid.

Following his stellar performance in Brazil during the 2014 World Cup, many clubs were after the signature of James Rodriguez. Everybody loved the guy, and it looked like he’d be a big part of the future of the sport. Eventually, European royalty Real Madrid managed to win the transfer war over Rodriguez and the Columbian had a positive first two years with Los Blancos.

His situation was perfect as he was allowed to play his attacking midfield position and he had a coach in Carlo Ancelotti that trusted him. It looked like James Rodriguez would become one of the best players in the world.

However, halfway through his second year, a significant moment occurred that many would argue was the turning point in James’ career: Zinedine Zidane became coach of Real Madrid.

The Decline of James Rodriguez

James Rodriguez sits on the bench for Real Madrid.

Zidane preferred a different style of play to Ancelotti. He also preferred midfielder Isco over James. Very quickly, we began to see James Rodriguez’s role change at Madrid. He went from being a fairly regular name in the lineup to a fringe player who’d start occasionally but mostly came off the bench.

He began losing his magic and momentum without full trust from his coach, and by 2017 he was sold to Bayern Munich.

James had a decent time in Germany and continued to win trophies, but again the world saw the player decline. It was similar to what happened in Spain. He again turned into a fringe player and spent more and more time on the bench.

James made a return to Real Madrid in 2020 where he featured in only eight league matches.

This was followed by an injury-riddled spell at Everton in the Premier League.

James Rodriguez in 2021

James Rodriguez on the pitch playing for Al-Rayyan SC.

James Rodriguez was sold to Qatar club Al-Rayyan SC back in September 2021. In certain fans’ minds, this marked the end of the “wonder boy” hopes and dreams for the Columbian. James Rodriguez never panned out in the way he was supposed to. A move to a lower-status league in the United States or Qatar isn’t prestigious. It tends to mean a player is well past their prime and is nearing the end of their playing career. This is why it was surreal for many people to watch James score his first goal for Al-Rayyan last Tuesday.

It made many, including myself, stop and reflect on James’ playing career. It’s sad thinking back to how drastically his career changed following that World Cup in Brazil. Millions of people around the world claimed he would become one of the greats, and maybe that’s why he never did. It’s a lot of pressure and simply put, James Rodriguez never reached his full potential.

At least we’re not done seeing him play, though. He is still a fun playmaker to watch, and regardless of where he is, we’ll be able to enjoy his talent for a little while longer before he decides to hang up the boots for good.

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About Author

James Kim

I'm currently a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I grew up playing soccer and fell in love with the sport. My motivation to continue playing The Beautiful Game started from watching clips of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi on Youtube, and from there it took off. I love staying up to date on the latest news in the footballing world and talking about it with others! I am a passionate Real Madrid fan however, so to Barcelona fans: it's just something we'll have to work around. :)

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