Everything You Need to Know About Colombia Superstar James Rodriguez
James Rodriguez has been one of the most impressive performers at the 2014 World Cup, scoring five goals and providing two assists as part of a vibrant Colombia side who have bettered the country’s best-ever performance in the tournament.
The 22-year old was far from an unknown coming into the World Cup, but his displays during the tournament have been sufficient to elevate his reputation to another level. He has proved his talent on the greatest stage of them all.
Ahead of Colombia’s quarter-final clash with Brazil on Friday, here is everything you need to know about James Rodriguez.
James Rodriguez was born in Cucuta, Colombia on July 12 1991 to Wilson James Rodriguez Bedolla and Maria Del Pilar Rubio.
It was clear from a young age that he was destined to make his living as a footballer. As per El Espectador (in Spanish), aged just two, he would stand on the sidelines during the training sessions of now-defunct second division side Cooperamos Tolima and imitate the movements of the players.
He became obsessed with the Spanish translation of the football-themed Japanese cartoon Captain Tsubasa. He modelled himself on the lead character, Oliver Atom—wearer of the No. 10 shirt and scorer of physically impossible goals.
His big break came at a famous youth tournament—the Pony Futbol championship—in 2004. His side, Academia Tolimense, won the trophy and Rodriguez was the top scorer. Envigado offered him a contract and, as per The Guardian, he, his mother and her new partner uprooted to Medellin in support of his dream.
Say His Name Right
On paper, James Rodriguez looks like an easy name to pronounce—certainly easier than those of his international teammates Eder Alvarez Balanta and Teofilo Gutierrez, for example.
But don’t be fooled into pronouncing James the English way. As the BBC’s South American football correspondent Tim Vickery has said many times on the broadcaster’s World Football Phone-In, Rodriguez takes great umbrage at the mispronunciation of his forename.
So ignore ITV commentator Clive Tyldesley and anyone else who stubbornly sticks to the English pronunciation. It is not James Rodriguez, but Ha-mes Rodriguez.
He Enjoyed Early Success in Argentina
Per El Pais (in Spanish), Rodriguez made his first-team debut for Envigado at 15.
Banfield won the 2009 Apertura, with Rodriguez scoring in victories over Newell’s Old Boys, Godoy Cruz and Velez Sarsfield. He continued his good form into 2010, netting five times in eight appearances in the Copa Libertadores—South America’s Champions League.
He also scored a delightful goal against the club’s local rivals Lanus in domestic action.
A move to Europe, with Porto, followed in the summer of 2010.
His Upward Trajectory Has Continued in Europe
Rodriguez only appeared 15 times in the league during his first season at Porto, but ended the campaign in fine style with a hat-trick in their 6-2 victory over Vitoria Guimaraes in the final of the Taca de Portugal.
He started more regularly in each of the subsequent two seasons, scoring 23 goals and establishing himself as one of Europe’s hottest up and coming talents. He was featured as one of the 100 best young players of 2012 and 2013 in the lists compiled by In Bed With Maradona.
In light of his rising prominence, his move to Monaco, for €45 million, last summer was viewed by many as a sideways or backwards step due to the club’s lack of Champions League football.
Rodriguez endured a slow start to life in the principality but came into his own in the second half of the season. He ended the campaign with nine goals and 12 assists, as per WhoScored.com, and was named in the Ligue 1 team of the season after helping Monaco to a second-place finish.
A pre-World Cup season at a club without European commitments has seen him come in to the competition fresher than many of his contemporaries. Per Marca, his performances at the tournament have persuaded Real Madrid to crystallise their interest in him.
He Is a Model Professional
Rodriguez has always been a highly driven individual, determined to do whatever is required to make a success of his career.
When he was coming up through the ranks at Envigado, he paid youth team coach, and former professional footballer, Omar Suarez 100,000 pesos (£31) a month for additional one-to-one training sessions.
Suarez noted to El Espectador (in Spanish) in 2012 how remarkable it is for a kid to pay extra money with the hopes of being the best.
In Argentina, Rodriguez was compared to Cristiano Ronaldo—not just because of his heavily gelled hair, but also for how hard he worked in training.
This constant quest for self-improvement has seen him reach the point whereby he is capable of shouldering the burden of his country’s famous No. 10 shirt at the tender age of 22.
Carlos Valderrama Has Passed on the Torch
The Colombia No. 10 shirt has been worn by many players since Carlos Valderrama retired from international football in 1998, but perhaps none have been as well-suited to it as Rodriguez.
Valderrama, nicknamed “El Pibe,” was the heartbeat of the great Colombia side that reached the last 16 of Italia 90’ and blazed their way through the qualifying process for the 1994 World Cup before falling to a disappointing group stage exit at the tournament itself.
Each and every vaguely talented playmaker who followed him was burdened with the tag of "the next Valderrama". Giovanni Hernandez, Mayer Candelo and Macnelly Torres were among those who failed to reach his heights.
But Rodriguez is different. He has shown himself capable of dealing with the pressure the No. 10 shirt brings. Well before his stunning performances in this year’s World Cup, Valderrama was happy to pass on the torch.
He told El Pais (in Spanish) in 2012 that James' presence meant they no longer lacked a "pibe."
Off the Pitch He Is a Quiet Family Man
Rodriguez is married to Colombian volleyball international Daniela Ospina, sister of his national team colleague David Ospina. The couple have a daughter, Salome, who was born in 2013.
He lives a quiet life away from the pitch. As per El Espectador (in Spanish), his free time is spent reading, studying English and playing video games. He also enjoys going out to the movies.
During his time at Porto he would often take short vacations to the peaceful beaches of Vigo in northern-Spain.
Per El Pais (in Spanish), in 2011 he launched a foundation in Ibague, the city in which he grew up, entitled “Colombia Somos Todos” (We Are All Colombians). The foundation seeks to promote peaceful values to the city’s youth through the medium of football.
He Has Friends in High Places
In the wake of Real Madrid’s renewed interest, Marca have gone to town on his friendship with Cristiano Ronaldo, posting a picture of the pair together and one of Ronaldo holding Rodriguez’s infant daughter.
Rodriguez also seems to have a relationship of distant mutual appreciation going on with Miami Heat basketball player LeBron James.