Scouting Report: Manchester United Target James Rodriguez
James Rodriguez is seemingly a man in demand; for the past 12 months or so, Manchester United have been continually linked with the midfielder who continues to shine in the Liga Sagres.
There's even a suggestion United's Anderson could be a makeweight in the deal—the Brazilian midfielder joined the Red Devils from the Dragoes in 2007 but has failed to impress due to injury and positional concerns.
So what can we expect from James, should he arrive at Old Trafford?
Considering he is only 21 years of age, he's a remarkably well-rounded player. His first club Banfield played him as a regular starter from the age of 18 and used him as a central playmaker, a No. 10.
He cameo'd on the left from time to time, but before his move to FC Porto he was thought of as a boy who had a little bit of Juan Roman Riquelme in his locker.
Andre Villas-Boas' arrival as coach the same summer James joined the Dragoes paved the way for his permanent move to the wings in a 4-3-3 formation, and the fact that he had the pace and raw agility to pull it off only eased the transition.
As a No. 10 he was adept at finding space between the lines, and that's a transferable skill: Rodriguez now operates from either flank and drops in and around the opposing full-backs to make himself very difficult to mark.
His crossing and corners are good which make him a threat getting chalk on his boots, but it's the attributes he developed as a youngster that make him a big threat coming in off the touchline.
A number of his first goals for Banfield were slotted finishes from medium range, and he can find space in and around the box or behind his markers to make room for a shot.
He's developed this ability and can now threaten the goal from the tightest of angles, scoring some pretty outrageous strikes in the last two years.
Against Paris Saint-Germain
When looking for prime examples of his strengths, his goalscoring performance against PSG in the UEFA Champions League this season is a good starting point.
He lined up on the right—slightly different to usual, as he often takes to the left—while Silvestre Varela lined up on the left. Both were pure wingers (little responsibility in defensive third) and supported lone striker Jackson Martinez.
Rodriguez showed how effective he is at finding space to work in on a number of occasions in this game, and we'll show you two examples.
First, Rodriguez isolates his full-back (Maxwell) and drifts outside as the cross comes in. Nothing comes of it, but he forces his marker to look over his shoulder and be wary of him pulling away at the back post.
Just a few minutes later, Rodriguez stays as wide as possible in the buildup so Maxwell can't stay touch-tight, then drifts inward at the right moment. He keeps going, and the full-back has no time to "pass his man on" (alert the centre-back), so Rodriguez gets a run across the box and a shot on goal.
Late on in this game, Rodriguez hovers behind Maxwell, gets a flick on from Martinez and half-volleys home from a sublime angle. Porto win 1-0.
Growing up as a No. 10 has helped Rodriguez adapt to life on the wing quickly and he excels at finding room to work. His pace helps him become a dynamic threat who's tough to predict, but his penchant for coming inside suggests he yearns to play centrally once more.
At the very least the club who purchase him will be buying a quality, first XI player who can play in any of the three positions in the advanced midfield of a 4-2-3-1 or on either wing of a 4-3-3.
Porto's style of play is chalk and cheese compared to Manchester United's, and it could take a few months for James to adapt should he move.
Due to injury this season we've not seen the best of him, but with a summer under his belt he'll be flying once more.
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